Dubbed the largest ever meeting of its kind, with 152 governments taking decisions on 62 species-listing proposals submitted by 64 countries and over 3,500 participants, the 17th meeting of the Conference of Parties to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES CoP17) recorded the highest number of delegates, side events and intense media interest from every region of the world. The Lusaka Agreement Task Force (LATF) was part of this high level triennial Conference, where it participated in a number of side events and followed proceeds in meetings of the Conference of Parties.
Parties to CITES made substantive decisions and provided direction in the conservation of the many species that are adversely affected by trade. A number of species received added protection from over exploitation and illegal trade. These among other species of interest in Africa include the African grey parrot, pangolin, rhino, African lion, and cheetah which were accorded further protection and targeted enforcement measures agreed to combat illegal trade. The Conference of Partied decided to continue with a moratorium on commercial trade in elephant ivory and rhino horns with parties urged to continue strengthening control, enforcement and management to mitigate escalating poaching and trafficking in the species. The need for Africa to mobilise adequate resources to contain wildlife crime and ensure that the population of the affected species flourish across all range states was found paramount.
Alongside CITES CoP17, Lusaka Agreement Task Force (LATF) participated in a number of side events some of which it made presentations on its activities and contribution in counter wildlife trafficking and fight against illegal wildlife trade. LATF participated in the second global meeting of the Wildlife Enforcement Networks which took place from 28-29 September. The meeting was convened by the International Consortium on Combating Wildlife Crime (ICCWC) and brought together regional and sub-regional wildlife enforcement networks, regional and global enforcement bodies, and intergovernmental and nongovernmental organizations.
As a way of enhancing collective law enforcement efforts, participants agreed to enhance the use of secondments, twinning programmes, mentorships or attachés, as well as strengthening links and cooperation with relevant regional law enforcement bodies. The meeting acknowledged the importance of regional and sub-regional networks in the fight against wildlife crime and their support in implementing commitments of their member states to CITES and other international agreements.
As a beneficiary from funding from the African Elephant Fund (AEF) in implementing the African Elephant Action plan, LATF presented at the African Elephant Fund Steering Committee side event entitled “The Elephant in the Room: A Coherent Approach to Implementation of the African Elephant Action Plan”. In its presentation, LATF highlighted on the projects it has implemented in Africa focusing on project outcomes, lessons learned, and how States can strengthen collaboration to ensure effective implementation of AEAP to achieve tangible results.
The projects LATF has implemented include i) the train-the-trainers Course for Sangha Tri-national Site (Cameroun, Congo Brazzaville and Central African Republic ) undertaken from 25 to 30 January 2016 in Ouesso, Kabo – Congo Brazzaville, a project which sought to strengthen law enforcement by enhancing regional and international cooperation among range states working to address elephant poaching and illegal ivory trade, ii) the Eastern Africa Wildlife Directors Forum undertaken from 11 to 12 February 2016, a project which contributed to establishment of bilateral mechanisms (Kenya/Tanzania, Kenya Uganda and Uganda/South Sudan) on cross border wildlife law enforcement for elephant protection to increase cooperation and resources for combating elephant poaching and illegal trade in the region, and iii) a project to strengthen law enforcement capacity of the Zambia Wildlife Authority personnel by offering specialised intelligence and investigations training for wildlife law enforcement officers to impart knowledge and skills aimed at countering annihilation of elephants and improved counter trafficking strategies within and outside the protected areas.
LATF also participated in the INTERPOL Wildlife Crime Working Group (IWCWG) meeting and side events by (i) Tanzania on sharing of successful enforcement experiences of Multiagency Task Force Team (MATT) based on intelligence-led operations on dismantling criminal networks across the country, and (ii) by Uganda Wildlife Authority on the progress made on the development of a national wildlife enforcement strategy which will boost Uganda’s efforts in tackling wildlife crime in the country and across borders.
The side events have demonstrated firm commitment by states and partners to joint efforts in securing wildlife resources against illegal exploitation and illicit trade causing serious threats to species survival and growth of wild population.
The Lusaka Agreement Task Force stands ready to support member states in implementing the decisions made at CITES CoP17 most which will be effective 90 days after the Conference. It will continue to seek effective partnerships to counter wildlife trafficking and illegal wildlife trade. Effective facilitation of cooperative enforcement operations and compliance in wildlife conservation, which are LATF focus areas of interventions, remains key to sustainable management of the resources. We urge all African states to become parties to the Lusaka Agreement and together strive to eliminate human driven threats to ecosystem integrity.