African heads of state and international stakeholders recently gathered in Congo Brazzaville for a four-day conference on fighting wildlife crime in Africa. The event focused on developing an African-led strategy and action plan to combat the illegal trade of the continent’s natural resources. Organizers included the government of the Republic of Congo, the African Union Commission, the United Nations Environmental Program and the United Nations Development Program.
The African Wildlife Foundation said earlier initiatives and discussions on illegal wildlife trade issues were good efforts but they lacked a coordinated effort within Africa. Now, the continent - the big missing piece of the puzzle – is just what is needed to take combating the crime of illegal trade to the next level.
“Africa will always be attached to wildlife,” said participant Charly Facheux, vice president of Conservation for the African Wildlife Foundation. “We’ve always been attached with wildlife. Wildlife is part of our heritage. And the killing of the wildlife is like Africa is losing its heritage. No [other] part of the world has wildlife like Africa.”
Facheux said Africa has been suffering from the effects of global warming and now sees the decimation of its wildlife supply from poaching and illegal extraction of natural resources. He calls this conference a turning point for Africa in fighting wildlife crime.
“It was the first time that all African countries were coming together to develop a wildlife policy on the African Union” he said.
During the conference, President Denis Sassou Nguesso of the Republic of Congo set fire to five tons of ivory at a public ceremony to emphasize that Africa is not going to tolerate illegal trade.
Facheux said, “You have the political action, you have the national action, you have local action. And this was very important—a clear commitment—and the fact that other countries are coming together to address this issue and to put it in their agenda. And I think that this may be a turning point for wildlife in Africa.”
“During the last month you have this happen in different countries, in Kenya, in Ethiopia, it is now in Congo Brazzaville,” said Facheux. “This is Congo Basin. You have Cameroon, you have Congo, you have Gabon, all those countries. So this is a very big signal both in terms of the people that are poaching, also to the buyers because don’t forget that the crime is not only for the poachers…but for those who buy the ivory,” said Facheux.
The African Wildlife Foundation conservationist said communication between African countries is vital in carrying out the African-led action plans to stop the crimes and preserve their natural resources.