The Southern African Development Community (SADC) Secretariat in conjunction with the Government of the Republic of Botswana hosted a Ministerial Workshop on Illegal Trade in Wildlife in Gaborone, Botswana on the 8th July 2016. The workshop was convened by His Excellency, Lieutenant General Dr. Seretse Khama Ian Khama, the President of the Republic of Botswana and Chairperson of SADC. It was one of the series of workshops called upon by the Chairperson in response to a host of challenges currently facing the SADC region.
The objective of the workshop was to provide a forum for Ministers and other stakeholders to exchange ideas on how to tackle the escalating problem of illegal harvesting and trade in wildlife in the SADC region and agree on practical solutions towards addressing the challenge. The event was held under the theme: "Implementation of the SADC Law Enforcement of the SADC Law Enforcement and Anti-poaching (LEAP) Strategy: towards eliminating Illegal Trade in Wildlife."
In his keynote address, His Excellency, Lieutenant General Dr. Seretse Khama Ian Khama, the President of the Republic of Botswana and Chairperson of SADC, noted that SADC region houses the largest population of elephants and rhinos. “These elephants, rhinos and other species of fauna and flora are being harvested and killed in large numbers to meet the rising international demand for commodities such as ivory, rhino horn and timber”. Illegal trade in wildlife has a potential to wipe out the endangered species of fauna and flora. The SADC Chairperson advised that efforts should be directed at stopping front line poachers and traffickers as well as empowering law enforcement agencies to eliminate corruption which fuels wildlife crime. This should also include seizure of assets that accrue from illegal wildlife trade.
In her remarks during the opening session, the SADC Executive Secretary, Her Excellency, Dr. Stergomena Lawrence Tax highlighted that the workshop was expected to come up with innovative and practical solutions to combat illegal killing and trade in wildlife and wildlife products. She noted that illegal wildlife trade deprives the region of benefits from wildlife resources of fauna and flora.
A presentation on the Status of Illegal Trade in Species of Wild Fauna and Flora in the region by the SADC Secretariat provided an insight into the seriousness and extent of illegal killing and trade in Wildlife and their products which is leading to the depletion and extinction of some wild fauna and flora in the region. The workshop also benefited from a number of presentations made as part of the High Level Dialogue, which among others focused on Conservation and Protection, Law Enforcement and Compliance, Sustainable Utilization and Legal Trade, and Sustainable Funding Mechanisms.
The workshop resulted in a report on the outcomes of the ministerial workshop on illegal trade in wildlife in the SADC region which calls upon Member States to scale up the domestication and implementation of the SADC Protocols, policies, programmes and relevant strategies taking into consideration global, continental and other regional commitments amongst others.
Making the closing statement, Honourable Tshekedi Khama, Minister of Environment, Wildlife and Tourism for Botswana encouraged Members States to intensify the implementation of strategies towards combating illegal trade in wildlife. Such strategies include the SADC Law Enforcement and Anti-Poaching Strategy (LEAP), SADC Forestry Strategy and the Statement of Commitment on illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing. “Efforts must include, monitoring and evaluation of the implementation of regional commitments”, he said. He also encouraged Member States and Stakeholders to harmonise their efforts and share knowledge and experiences in dealing with wildlife crimes.
The workshop was attended by Ministers and Senior Officials representing SADC Members States, Private Organisations, United Nation’s Agencies and other International Partners.