Friday, June 8, 2012

New Hope for Central Africa's Wildlife

A forest elephant calf

It has been recently reported that countries in Central Africa have signed a pioneering plan to strengthen the law enforcement, and improve the battle against poaching of elephants and other species in danger of the illegal wildlife trade. This plan was set up by ten member states forming the Central African Forest Commission (COMIFAC), as the region experienced increasing rates of wildlife crime. Wildlife ministers from each of these ten countries promised to carry out causative levels of cooperation with law enforcement agencies, such as the police, customs and the judiciary, to combat the issues. They also declared plans to hold a head of state conference next year to address the issues of wildlife loss and maintaining the biodiversity of Africa. This conference would not only bring together African leaders, but also government officials from key Asian trading partners and intergovernmental supporters such as the African Development Bank and the United Nations to look into operations for cooperation. The law enforcement action plan includes arrangements to boost up anti-poaching efforts in each of these ten countries and to allow joint-country patrols in some trans-border areas. In addition to that, customs controls are also ready to be prepared at international transit centers. The countries also plan to boost up investigations and carry out more accurate prosecutions, in order to make sure that criminals involved in the illegal wildlife trade would be prosecuted to the full extent of the law after being arrested. Such cases will also be examined for corruption, and action will be taken against those attempting to obstruct justice. The finalization of the plan came after Dr. Donald Kaberuka, president of the African Development Bank spoke about the desperate need to tackle the ongoing threat. In his own words, the increase in large seizures is "evidence of the involvement of well-organized criminal networks in illegal wildlife trade." At an event held in N'Djamena, Chad, the nation along with the Central African Republic and Cameroon signed a tripartite declaration to team up together and increase transboundary alliance to fight poaching. In addition to that, the World Wildlife Fund (WWF), along with TRAFFIC and the U.S Fish and Wildlife Service, has provided both financial and technical support toward the formulation of the plan and is offering ongoing support for utilization.
Black rhinos

I'm very proud to see what the countries in the Central African region have done, in order to help save and protect their local wildlife. The region has experienced some of the most tragic moments in recent times, including the massacre of more than 200 elephants in Cameroon's Bouba N'Djida National Park. In addition to that, the region had also lost the Western black rhinoceros to extinction. Both of these stories are a clear indication that the region has been and still is prone to poaching and the illegal wildlife trade devastating its ecosystems. This is why it was absolutely crucial for the countries forming the Central African region to collaborate together, in order to combat these ongoing threats. Among the strategies implemented include high levels of cooperation with different law enforcement agencies, and more accurate prosecutions such as investigating for corruption in such cases. I think this is a huge step for Central Africa because the region has been affected by corruption over the years, and it looks like the region is taking a stand against corruption by combating poaching and the wildlife trade through this plan. However, I also believe that Central Africa should also remain alert for any strategy the operators of the wildlife trade will use in order to keep their illicit business flowing. For example, if they cannot transport their illegal merchandise from one central African country to another, they may opt for an alternative route which could cover a nation that is not in Central Africa. This type of strategy was seen in the case of ivory tusks seized in Sri Lanka. For this reason, I also believe that Central Africa could further improve their plan by forming alliances with their neighbors in the east, west, north, and south which would make it even more difficult for the perpetrators to carry out their evil and illegal deeds. Furthermore, this forming of a plan is an important milestone for Central Africa and it very much highlights that the region's wildlife have a new hope for survival.

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