When Youth 4 African Wildlife (Y4AW) interviewed me a couple weeks ago they asked me what I considered to be the game changers of Africa’s poaching crisis. We discussed the opportunities of demand reduction, social impact investment, and a watchdog system for making sure criminals are put behind bars.
It’s interesting to note the progress since that interview, specifically in the political sphere. We need to celebrate the milestones, because if we do not we may become disillusioned and, at worst, apathetic.
One year on, the implementation of the US National Strategy for Combating Wildlife Trafficking is now underway. US intelligence agencies, including the CIA and National Security Agency, will now become involved in targeting criminal networks.
The plan focuses on three strategic areas:
• Strengthening enforcement in the United States to stop the illegal trade in wildlife through enforcement of laws prohibiting and penalising wildlife trafficking while also improving global enforcement efforts through support to partner countries.
• Reducing demand for illegally traded wildlife through public awareness campaigns and outreach in the United States alongside public diplomacy abroad.
• Building international cooperation and commitments, as well as public-private partnerships, to mobilise global support for the fight against wildlife trafficking.
Whilst this is a big step forward, unfortunately, and predictably, the budget for demand reduction is miniscule. To quote Peter Knights, Executive Director of WildAid, in response to the US Strategy being released publicly, “I’m an economist by training, and I can tell you, if common sense doesn’t, that trying to restrict supply without restricting demand is likely only to drive up price. That’s how we have spent trillions on drug enforcement with little to show for it.
And as outlined in the Y4AW video interview below, we have a history of curbing demand, and, unlike drugs, wildlife goods are not addictive.
As we continue to push forward towards the tipping point, earlier this month, joining New York, New Jersey, California and Washington state, Hawaii and Oklahoma introduced a bill that would ban the trafficking of ivory and rhino horn.
Max Baucus, the US ambassador to China, recently announced at a gala in Beijing, “I am going to push for fighting wildlife crime to the highest level of government dialogues between President Obama and President Xi Jinping. It is the right thing to do.”
China’s newly appointed Minister of Environmental Protection is a political outsider, which may be a good thing. Respected academic Chen Jining has practical experience of solving a wide range of environmental problems, dealing with government ministries and encouraging new business solutions. The outgoing Minister allowed China to seek legal ivory trade from CITES.
And on the 23rd of February, in a significant boost for Africa’s elephants, leaders of Hong Kong’s largest political party announced plans to push for a commercial ivory ban in China.
But like I said in my interview, back in Africa it’s time for a new story, and we can no longer afford to shove poverty into the unsolvable box.
Please watch the video and share any inspiring stories out there that need to be told. Big picture thinking and scalable blueprints could allow us to unlock points of leverage and create rocket fuel change.