Ministers of Tourism of the Democratic Republic of Congo, Gabon, Ghana, Guinea, Mauritius, Mozambique, Seychelles, South Africa, Tanzania, Zambia, and Zimbabwe met during the 2014 ITB tourism trade fair in Berlin to discuss what is today regarded as an alarming growth in wildlife crime in Africa as a whole. The meeting was the initiative of the UNWTO with the support of UNODC and it was the first time that the world of tourism had gathered at an international forum to bring their points of view forward.
On March 10, the UNWTO issued their communique (PR No. 14021) on this important meeting that was chaired by Mr. Taleb Rifai, the Secretary General of the UNWTO. The communique stated that the UNWTO, UNODC, and African Tourism Ministers were to join forces to fight wildlife crime.
During the deliberations at the meeting, Alain St.Ange, the Seychelles Minister responsible for Tourism and Culture, appealed for the anti-poaching drive to go further than just rhino horns and elephant tusks. Minister St.Angesaid that the opportunity is today for the UNWTO to look at including the flora and fauna from their part of the world. The Minister from the Seychelles cited Hawkbill Turtle shell and the Coco-de-Mer, the endemic double nut of the Seychelles as articles that warranted inclusion on the list.
The Seychelles Minister then went on to read a paragraph from a document, the SWP comments just released in Germany by the German Institute for International and Security Affairs (Stiftung Wissenschaft und Politik). The document is entitled Wildlife Crime in Africa – A Global Challenge (Successful Countermeasures Must Involve Local Populations).
The extract of the statement read by Minister St.Ange was:-“…Successful action against wildlife crime is a cross-cutting global task encompassing wildlife conservation, fighting crime, promotion of rule of law, and economic cooperation, as well as resolute anti-corruption and involvement of local populations along the entire supply chain. Countermeasures will function only if people in Africa enjoy economically viable livelihoods and benefit from wildlife protection. In Asia, renouncing ivory as a status symbol and dropping superstitions about medical value of rhinoceros products demands a change of mindset…”Minister St.Ange went on to read the last paragraph of the SWP comments: “…that demands a political approach that avoids land use conflicts, pays equal attention to the needs of environmental protection and agriculture, counteracts land-intensive subsistence agriculture, and prevents the invasion of national parks by people looking for land. In former times, pastoralists contributed to preserving wildlife stocks. Today, they are socially, politically, and economically marginalized. Land policy must also find answers to their needs. For a long time, Germany and Europe have concentrated their African development cooperation on agricultural projects, good governance, and fighting corruption. They should now firmly anchor wildlife protection and anti-poaching in these programs.
The UNWTO communique issued on March 10 (PR No. 14021) on this Ministers of Tourism of Africa stated:
UNWTO, the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), and African Tourism Ministers have committed to advancing the tourism sector’s support in the global fight against the surge in poaching that is threatening one of Africa’s main tourism resources – its unique wildlife and biodiversity. (ITB Berlin, Germany, March 6, 2014).
In a response to the alarming growth in wildlife crime on the African continent, UNWTO and the Ministers of Tourism of the Democratic Republic of Congo, Gabon, Ghana, Guinea, Mauritius, Mozambique, Seychelles, South Africa, Tanzania, Zambia, and Zimbabwe gathered at ITB to review the current situation in the individual countries, share experiences, and discuss the tourism sector’s role the ongoing global efforts against poaching. Joining the meeting were the Executive Director of UNODC, Yuri Fedotov, and the German State Secretary at the Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation, Building and Nuclear Safety, Jochen Flasbarth.
“Tourism is a key vehicle for sustainable growth, job creation, and poverty alleviation across Africa, but without the draw of its spectacular wildlife, future tourism development and millions of people depending on it will suffer,” said UNWTO Secretary-General, Taleb Rifai. “We are here to work together in supporting the global efforts in safeguarding Africa’s natural heritage and ensure the wellbeing of wildlife and people alike.”
Yury Fedotov noted the devastating effects of wildlife crime: “The killing and trafficking of wild animals not only destroys livelihoods and ecosystems and undermines development and stability, but is a crime that steals revenues from legitimate economic activities, in particular tourism. As this crime becomes ever more organized and ever more destructive, it can only be stopped through comprehensive, coordinated responses. Commitments, such as those made today, are central in helping boost the necessary response to wildlife crime and as the guardian of the United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime, UNODC supports countries in tackling this critical issue.”
Jochen Flasbarth stressed the importance of approaching the critical issue of poaching from a wider perspective and welcomed the commitment of the tourism sector in engaging in this global fight. “It is very encouraging to see tourism stepping up to engage in this global fight and particularly to see the UN agencies UNWTO and UNODC joining efforts to make this part of the tourism sector’s agenda.”
Wildlife in Africa is facing one of its greatest crises in decades. Poaching and illegal wildlife trade in ivory, rhinoceros horn, and other biodiversity parts have reached unprecedented levels, affecting not only wildlife but entire ecosystems and effectively depriving local communities of their livelihood. Tourism, a principal export for many African countries, is by no means unaffected by the ongoing poaching crisis. Nature and wildlife watching tourism is one of Africa’s main tourism products, and as such a key contributor to the region’s socio-economic development.
“Wildlife has value far beyond its natural beauty and is worth much more alive than dead. Wildlife watching generates billions of dollars around the world each year and many migratory animals protected under the Convention on Migratory Species, such as elephants, whales, gorillas, and flamingoes are some of the biggest tourist attractions in the world. Losing them would be like losing the Eiffel Tower, Golden Gate Bridge, the Pyramids, or the Great Wall of China,” said Bradnee Chambers, Executive Secretary of the UNEP Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species of Wild Animals (CMS) “It is encouraging to see that the UNWTO and others are putting the fight against poaching and the illegal wildlife trade so high on the agenda of the ITB in Berlin. It is also encouraging to see that international wildlife protection is increasingly a topic of concern for those responsible for tourism,” said Chambers.
PHOTO: Minister Alain St.Ange addressing the Ministers of Tourism of Africa. Seated next to Minister St.Ange is Minister Michael Sik-Yuen of Mauritius and Minister Marthinus Van Schalkwyk of South Africa
Seychelles is a founding member of the International Coalition of Tourism Partners (ICTP) .