UNDP and partners call for increased efforts to protect wildlife and reduce illegal wildlife trade on World Wildlife Day

Mar 3, 2015

Wildlife trafficking, worth an estimated $US23 billion annually, endangers species, strips national assets and ruins opportunities for sustainable development

New York –The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) renewed its commitment to protecting wildlife and stopping wildlife crimes, such as poaching and trafficking, while commemorating World Wildlife Day today. The Day’s 2015 theme is, “It’s time to get serious about wildlife crime.”

Wildlife trafficking and poaching have ravaged key populations of endangered wildlife, driving many to the brink of extinction. Elephants, rhinos, tigers, lions, sharks and gorillas, among many others, are under serious threat.

Poaching threatens local livelihoods, and undermines environmental health and ecological integrity, removing species that play important roles in maintaining a natural balance in their respective ecosystems. Criminal poaching syndicates are often linked to organized crime and armed militias, with trafficking in wildlife products funding conflicts and protracted violence in already war-torn regions.

“World Wildlife Day is an opportunity to celebrate wildlife, but it is also a wake-up call to get serious about wildlife crime,” UNDP Administrator Helen Clark said. “We must all do more to halt the illegal trade in wildlife. UNDP and its partners are committed to this task.”

UNDP helps to protect snow leopards across Asia
Around the world many different UNDP projects are tackling wildlife crime in a variety of ways, including increased efforts to protect snow leopards. Listed as “endangered” on the Red List of Threatened Species, the snow leopard is viewed as an indicator for the health of mountain ecosystems in Central and South Asia. UNDP participates in the Global Snow Leopard and Ecosystem Protection Plan, an international coalition to address threats to the snow leopard across all 12 range countries of the snow leopard in Asia.

With support from UNDP Kazakhstan and funding from the Global Environment Facility’s (GEF) Small Grants Programme, photo-traps and related snow leopard monitoring equipment are being used in three East Kazakhstan Special Protected Areas. In Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan, GEF-funded projects are also under way or being prepared to establish new protected areas and enhance the effectiveness of existing enforcement and surveillance systems. UNDP is also working to enhance management capacity and cross-border cooperation for the protection of trans-boundary snow leopard landscapes.

UNDP supports Tanzanian efforts to stop poachers

Poaching and wildlife trafficking strip countries of their national assets, erode social cohesion, and undermine the rule of law. Lost flagship species translate directly to lost tourism revenues for those regions, countries and communities where conservation and ecotourism are cornerstones of the economy. Local livelihoods are being affected, as are national economies.

Tanzania recently saw a rapid rise in wildlife crime, including poaching and illegal ivory trade, rhino horns and other animal product trafficking. The rise directly led to declines in Tanzanian wildlife populations, especially of African elephants.

UNDP is building the enforcement capabilities of Tanzania National Parks, through a GEF-funded project called Strengthening the Protected Area Network in Southern Tanzania. The project includes training a rapid response team of rangers, providing digital communications systems and strengthening intelligence units. For law enforcement, the project assisted the Tanzanian Government to create a wildlife crime unit.

To respond to the rise in wildlife crime, the Tanzanian Government requested UNDP Tanzania to scale up the project nationwide, which led to the creation of the Tanzanian National Strategy to Combat Poaching and Illegal Wildlife Trade. The strategy aims to support significant measures to tackle three major factors: consumer demand, poverty and weak law enforcement.

UNDP at Central Park Zoo event

The Wildlife Conservation Society Central Park Zoo planned to host UNDP and other UN partners, along with representatives from UN Member States and civil society partners for a high-level panel discussion on international wildlife crime to mark World Wildlife Day.

“UNDP efforts to combat the illegal trade in wildlife highlight the links to development and livelihoods,” Nik Sekhran, Director of UNDP’s Sustainable Development Cluster, said. “We use a three-pronged approach that focuses on expanding economic opportunities, strengthening governance and law enforcement and raising awareness of the problem.”

UNDP expands work and partnerships to protect biodiversity and stop illegal wildlife trade
These efforts draw on the UNDP-GEF biodiversity and ecosystems portfolio, the largest in the UN system, covering over 130 countries and 500 projects with USD 1.5 billion in funding and USD 3.5 billion of co-financing. Through the biodiversity and ecosystems programme, UNDP has helped establish over 2,000 protected areas in 85 countries around the world, covering 272 million hectares of land.

UNDP will build on this portfolio of work and is exploring new and innovative partnerships that help governments and communities tackle illegal wildlife trafficking and poaching. These include partnerships with governments, CITES, sister UN agencies, such as UNEP and UNODC, the World Bank, the United for Wildlife coalition of wildlife conservation organisations, other civil society groups to tackle poaching and illegal wildlife trafficking, and reduce the global demand for wildlife and wildlife products.

Contact information

Joyce de Pina, joyce.depina@undp.org, +1 212-906-5698
Wynne Boelt, wynne.boelt@undp.org, +1 212-906-6860