Part of The Thin Green Line, Rangers patrolling the Irrawady Delta, Myanmar

Part of The Thin Green Line, Rangers patrolling the Irrawady Delta, Myanmar

Wildopeneye urges everyone interested in Wildlife Crime to watch the Google Video feed from IUCN World Parks Congress in Australia. The scale of the illegal wildlife trade problem is immense, estimated at somewhere between $10 and 20 billion every year. We’ve lost 50% of our species on the planet in the last 40 years according to WWF. This is what E.O.Wilson called The Sixth Great Extinction. Things have to change. The panel represents a wide range of experts from key organisations involved in combating wildlife crime.

http://worldparkscongress.org/programme/wld_the_nature_of_crime.html

Dugong and turtle poaching in Australia, South East Asian Rosewood and other timber, Gabon’s elephants, South Africa and Sumatra’s rhinos are just some of the important representative topics raised here by the panel members in World Leaders’ Dialogues for November 17th, and more effective response to these crimes across the whole supply chain is declared from working with the local communities in conservation, environmental education at the consumer end, to supporting the ‘Thin Green Line’ of rangers at the “pointy end of conservation”, many in need of the most basic supplies and equipment to combat well-armed, organised criminal syndicates involved in illegal wildlife, human, drugs and arms trafficking.

An excellent outcome of this increased focus on Transnational Wildlife and Forest Crime is the whole-hearted participation of Police and Border Defence Agencies. Interpol’s adoption of a new Resolution on Wildlife Crime is very encouraging.

See http://www.interpol.int/Crime-areas/Environmental-crime/Environmental-crime

It is apparent that Transnational Wildlife and Forest Crime is seen as having national and international security implications and the call for the World’s system of protected areas to be involved in new more effective partnerships with non-profit organisations and security agencies in strengthened efforts for conserving natural heritage is an important one.

We heard bad news from Gabon: 70% loss of forest elephants due to poaching in the past decade and good news from Nepal 0% poaching of tigers poached recently.

We heard the need for:

  • Local community involvement. Indigenous rangers and empowered community custodians
  • Demand and supply reduction. Different strategies to interrupt traditional and new use of wildlife and undermining wider social acceptability of illegal practices- replacement of wildlife products with other social status symbols
  • Political support
  • Combating corruption
  • Better respect, and practical support for the Rangers in terms of training and equipment and proper support for widows and orphans. Celebration of Wildlife Heroes. Conservation champions supported with political will.
  • Sharing of intelligence, intelligence-led enforcement
  • Capacity building
  • Cross-agency / Inter-agency support. Effective coordination.
  • Improved legal livelihood options through devolution of management rightsand promotion of sustainable trade
  • Different messaging methods to persuade the unconverted.
  • Integrated, cross-ministry support, embedded training for Police and Customs officers.
  • Harness the same crime-fighting technology in Wildlife Crime as is used against narcotics, gun and human trafficking and techniques such as ‘controlled delivery’.
  • Prevention of ivory laundering from domestic markets. Regulated domestic trade has encouraged demand and led to EIA finding , that according to traders’ perceptions in China that up to 90% of ivory in the market place there is perceived as illegal.

Sean Willmore spoke passionately about the need for better Ranger support. Currently President of the International Ranger Federation, with 64 associations on six continents he founded its charity arm, The Thin Green Line Foundation, supporting rangers across the world in anti-poaching conservation work and the widows and orphans of rangers killed in their line of duty – over 1,000 rangers have been killed in the past decade.

As examples of the difficulties Rangers face around the World he reported Indian Rangers buried alive by illegal loggers and that in Congo 50 Rangers serving to protect Hippopotamus came up against an army of 500 poachers with AK 47s, employing horrific terror tactics, they demonstratively tortured a captive Ranger to death. After seeing their colleague buried and his wife and children evicted from their home and school, the others are expected to go out the next day and risk all they have and love!

A lot of Rangers lack simple, basic equipment they need to to their jobs, mosquito nets and waterproofs. Yet there is some good news, Sean cites a case in Kenya where Masai Community Rangers have guarded over a considerable increase in the local lion population from 6 to 120. Community engagement is crucial, they’ve implemented incentive programmes, Predator Compensation Fund, Scholarship programme and Masai Olympics. They also received basic equipment. With increased respect there was self policing which reduced corruption.

We heard that Paul Allen donated $8 million to conduct a census survey of African Elephants. An audience-member from Botswana said that an aerial survey had found no freshly poached carcasses in his country and he quoted a local saying “God will judge the poachers, it’s up to us to arrange the meeting.” The panel agreed with a suggestion from the floor that a public shame list would be useful for wildlife criminals.

I think it was a very useful forum. Greg Hunt will be talking with the Chinese soon about the issue. Going forward there is likely to be a congress devoted to Wildlife and Forest Crime as one speaker from the floor, the Director of The Saudi Arabian Wildlife Authority suggested, it is time that World leaders put Wildlife issues at the top of their list. They meet for political summits (like the current G20 Summit in Australia), they should meet for Wildlife too. Good idea.