Global perspective Human stories

UN-backed fund expands wildlife protection plan to 19 countries in Africa and Asia

A southern white rhinoceros at Lake Nakuru, Kenya.
Ryan Harvey
A southern white rhinoceros at Lake Nakuru, Kenya.

UN-backed fund expands wildlife protection plan to 19 countries in Africa and Asia

A United Nations-backed partnership fun has approved an additional $40 million to expand its support of a global programme fighting against illegal trafficking to a total of 19 countries in Africa and Asia.

The expansion for the Global Wildlife Program was approved by the Global Environment Facility (GEF) and includes contributions from the Asian Development Bank, the International Union for Conservation of Nature, the UN Development Programme (UNDP), the UN Environment Programme (UNEP), the World Bank Group and the World Wildlife Fund.

“The victims of wildlife crime are not only the animals and ecosystems that are devastated by poaching and trafficking, they are people as well. The human cost of poaching and illegal trade in wildlife is measured in lives lost to the criminal networks involved and livelihoods destroyed by the erosion of a natural economic foundation,” said UNEP Executive Director Achim Steiner.

“Ending the illegal trade in wildlife requires a concerted and cooperative effort between all sectors. These new projects will further these efforts and help bring us closer to ending wildlife crime once and for all,” he added.

Specifically, the Global Wildlife Program was established to address the growing poaching crisis and an international call to action. The value of illegal trade has been estimated at between $10 and $23 billion per year, making wildlife crime the fourth most lucrative illegal business after narcotics, human trafficking and weapons, UNEP said.

The new $131 million agenda is expected to leverage $704 million in additional co-financing over seven years. The national projects aim to promote wildlife conservation, wildlife crime prevention, and sustainable development in order to reduce adverse impacts to known threatened species from poaching and illegal trade.

Additionally, a global coordination grant from the GEF will strengthen cooperation and facilitate knowledge exchange between national governments, development agency partners and leading practitioners, UNEP said.

“Poaching and illegal wildlife trafficking are reaching unprecedented levels, robbing the livelihoods of local communities and eroding the global commons,” said Naoko Ishii, GEF CEO and Chairperson. “In response, the GEF has launched a major international effort to help tackle the supply, trade and demand for wildlife products. Importantly, the project is not only about stopping the slaughter of animals in the forests and savannas of Africa; it also aims at reducing the demand in Asia.”

This past month, at the UN Environment Assembly (UNEA-2) in Nairobi, GEF joined other partners to support the launch of the Go Wild for Life campaign, a UN-led campaign that urges politicians, celebrities and business leaders to help bring global attention to the fight against the illegal wildlife trade.

“Wildlife poaching and the illicit trade of wildlife and forest products are abhorrent. This multi-billion dollar worldwide trade is a security issue, an environmental issue, and a development issue,” said UNDP Administrator Helen Clark.

“It is pushing vulnerable and endangered species toward extinction. The illicit trade is also fuelling corruption and conflict, destroying lives, and deepening poverty and inequality. If not addressed decisively, illicit poaching and wildlife trade will have significant national economic impacts,” she added.

In June 2015, the GEF approved 10 national projects from Botswana, Cameroon, Ethiopia, Gabon, India, Indonesia, Mozambique, Republic of Congo, Tanzania and Zambia. Today's announcement expands that program to strengthen the capacity of Governments to combat poaching and trafficking of wildlife, and wildlife products in key range and transit countries that are in the front lines of combatting wildlife crime.

The nine additional countries include Afghanistan, Kenya, Malawi, Mali, Philippines, South Africa, Thailand, Vietnam and Zimbabwe.

Activities in the Global Wildlife Program in the source countries will include enhancing anti-poaching tracking and intelligence operations, increasing the size of conservation areas and improving their management, and providing opportunities for development through nature-based tourism and other agriculture, forestry and natural resource projects that benefit local communities.

In transit countries, the Global Wildlife Program will support anti-smuggling and customs controls, while in demand countries, it will initiate targeted awareness-raising campaigns to help increase legal deterrents for purchase of wildlife and wildlife products.