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USAID-WA BiCC: Combating wildlife trafficking in West Africa

By  | 23 May 2019 at 02:31 | 1629 views

USAID-WA BiCC: Combating wildlife trafficking in West Africa

Wildlife trafficking is the international illegal trade of whole, or parts of products of wildlife species that are protected by national or international law. It can involve the trade of living or dead animals, tissues such as skins, bones, or other products. The practice is considered illegal whether the animals were poached directly, purchased as a gift.

Wildlife trafficking is one of the most extreme threats to biodiversity. This illegal trade results in the disappearance of many animals, trees and aquatic species. Wildlife trafficking activities are a critical conservation concern that also endangers human lives, and threatens peace and stability in many parts of the world. In West Africa, the problem has risen to extreme levels with elephants, pangolins, rhinoceros, sharks, chimpanzees, gorillas, and several precious tree species critically impacted.
The illegal wildlife trade is worth $ 19 billion a year. Nearly 100 African elephants poached per day in December 2015, 700 kg of ivory, worth one million U.S. dollar s, were shipped from Nigeria through Singapore and seized in Thailand. In January 2016, 16 pairs of elephant tusks weighing 70 kg transiting from Chad and Niger to Cote d’Ivoire were seized in Burkina Faso. In June 2016, 500 kg of Pangolin scales coming from Guinea and destined for Nigeria were seized in Kenya.

To tackle this threat, several initiatives have been established at the global, regional, and national levels:
• The Convention on Trade in Threatened and Endangered Species of Wild Flora and Fauna (CITES) is a multilateral treaty set up in 1973 to protect endangered plants and animals. Nearly all West African countries are signatories to the treaty, and the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) has included CITES in its Environment Policy.
• An unprecedented UN resolution to tackle wildlife trafficking passed on June 30, 2015.
• President Barack Obama issued the US National Strategy for Combating Wildlife Trafficking on February 11, 2014 and released the Implementation Plan to guide and direct the efforts of Federal agencies on February 11, 2015. As part of its response to President Obama’s directive ,the United States Agency for International Development ( USAID) established the 5-year West Africa Biodiversity and Climate Change ( WA BiCC )program, which will join with West African and International partners to combat wildlife crime and trafficking in West Africa.

WA BiCC’s approach
The overall goal of WA BiCC is to improve conservation and support climate –resilient, low emission growth across West Africa. Reducing biodiversity loss caused by international trade in wildlife species and their products is critical to reaching this goal. WA BiCC is working with its regional and national partners to strengthen policies, laws and regulations on wildlife trafficking, and increase the capacity of networks and institutions to strengthen, develop and/or enforce wildlife legislation.

Communication and advocacy campaigns will help the general public better understand this complex issue and influence attitudes and behaviors to help fight wildlife trafficking. Primary activities include:
• Intensive analysis of wildlife trafficking issues and impacts on wildlife to establish clear and specific threats to biodiversity in West Africa;
• Development of priority responses to wildlife trafficking including the training of customs agents, prosecutors and judges to more effectively pursue and prosecute wildlife crime ;
• Revision of national and regional policies , laws and regulations and promoting effective enforcement;
• Strengthening national and regional networks and institutions by building their capacity to enforce anti-trafficking laws;
• Raising awareness of the problem and conducting behavior change campaigns.

This WA BiCC component spans all the countries in the West Africa region and undertakes learning activities in the most threatened priority countries. The lessons learnt, knowledge acquired and best practices will be promoted and shared across the region.

WA BICC partnerships and grants
WABiCC’s core regional partners are ECOWAS, the Abidjan Convention and the Mano River Union, who will receive technical, financial and material support from the program. WA BiCC‘s strategy is to work with specialized agencies, institutions and networks including the EAGLE (Eco-Activists for Governance and Law Enforcement) Network and its constituent member organizations such as the Last Great Ape Organization (LAGA) and the Guinee Application de la Loi Faunique ( GALF), as well as the national Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) authorities, TRAFFIC ( Wildlife Trade Monitoring Network), the International Union for Conservation of Nature, the Born Free Foundation , and other nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), and community –based organizations ( CBOs), and Focal Institution (s) within priority countries.

This strategy will be powered by WA BiCC’s grants mechanism. Once an intervention is identified or planned, WA BiCC will issue Requests for Applications for these specialized institutions to apply for grants and undertake those actions that will help tackle wildlife trafficking in West Africa.