In the wake of last month’s public outrage at the death of Cecil the Lion, the United Nations has taken a ‘historic’ step forward on the issue of animal poaching, says one animal rights activist.
In a rare show of unanimous support, the United Nations General Assembly adopted a resolution that commits countries to increase their collective efforts to address wildlife poaching.
“The world has sent an unequivocal and collective signal at the highest-level that ending wildlife crime is a top priority,” said Steven Broad, executive director of TRAFFIC, a non-governmental organization that focuses on the global trade of animal and plants. “It’s historic.”
The resolution, which is called Tackling the Illicit Trafficking in Wildlife, was put forward by Gabon and Germany. One of the key objectives of the plan is to ensure that UN member states crack down on the illicit criminal organizations that profit in the trafficking of protected species of animals and plants.
In a statement, John Scanlon, the secretary-general of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) said: “This resolution reflects the heightened level of political concern over the devastating impacts of poaching and illegal trade in wildlife. It is particularly important in strengthening the political resolve to combat these serious crimes.”
While the statements about political resolve are strong, the caveat to this agreement is that it is not legally binding. As such, it relies on actions to be implemented by individual national governments.
Nevertheless, diplomats argue that the high number of co-sponsors can be seen as encouraging.
“[This commitment] shows that the international community is aware that wildlife trafficking is an urgent and serious problem that requires global and comprehensive action,” says a press statement released by the European Union.
Broad agrees with that statement. Although Cecil’s death has galvanized the demand for public action, the issue of animal poaching around the world has been a long-standing issue.
For example, up to 30,000 elephants are killed each year for their ivory tusks in Africa alone. As well, rhinoceros poaching in South Africa hit a record high last year when 1,215 animals were killed for their horns, according to data compiled by TRAFFIC.
Despite those gloomy numbers, Leigh Henry, senior policy advisor for species conservation and advocacy at the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) says this sort of action is a critical first step to ensure better protection for animals across the globe.
“[We] now have a critical tool in ensuring that global response becomes a reality. In unison, the world is saying that wildlife crime, and the criminal syndicates profiting from it will not be tolerated.”