New York -- As part of the activities associated with the 69th United Nations General Assembly, at which the Sustainable Development Goals were adopted, the International Conservation Caucus Foundation (ICCF) hosted a series of expert speakers on the topic of illegal wildlife trafficking in Africa.
Held at the New York Harvard Club, on 28 September 2015, the reception was attended by ministers, leaders of development organizations, global corporations, non-governmental organizations, and philanthropists who discussed their shared commitments to addressing wildlife trafficking in Africa and explored possible partnerships.
'Wildlife crime has escalated rapidly and globally,' United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) Deputy Executive Director, Mr. Ibrahim Thiaw, told the gathering. 'Whilst we hear most about the 30,000 or more African elephants that have been killed each year for their ivory, sadly, that's the tip of the iceberg.
'Wildlife and forest crime affects a wide range of less high profile animals, trees and other plants in all regions of the world, and is worth tens of billion US dollars each year globally. It is increasingly complex, with organized criminal groups, and some militant and terrorist groups profiting from extraction, extortion and illegal taxation.
'Increasing awareness and growing commitment to tackle this problem is vital, but not enough. Its sheer scale is beyond the capacity of many individual countries and organizations. That's why the collective response made possible by organizations like ICCF and the Conservation Council of Nations is so important to consolidating the national frameworks and judicial systems for wildlife conservation.'
Mr. Thiaw also pointed to successful anti-poaching measures, such as recent UN Champions of the Earth, the Black Mambas, a majority-women community group who have reduced poaching in a section of the Greater Kruger Park, South Africa.
A video on wildlife crime from the National Geographic's new special investigations unit opened the event, and the reception was concluded with words from one of UNEP's Goodwill Ambassadors, Ian Somerhalder, who urged everyone to play their part in fighting wildlife crime.
Guest speakers included Heads of State from African nations affected by the illegal wildlife trafficking crisis, including H.E. Jakaya Kikwete, President of Tanzania; H.E. Ali Bongo Ondimba; President of the Gabonese Republic, H.E. Peter Mutharika; President of the Republic of Malawi, H.E. Hage Geingob; President of the Republic of Namibia, H.E. Jakaya Kikwete; President of the United Republic of Tanzania; and His Honour Ponatshego Kedikilwe, Vice-President of the Republic of Botswana.
H.E. Frans Timmermans, First Vice-President of the European Commission, leaders from ICCF, the Global Environment Facility (GEF), United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), the World Bank and USAID also took part in the dialogue.