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Government launches new plans to stamp out the illegal wildlife trade ahead of landmark UK conference

Anti-wildlife trafficking projects around the world given £44.5 million boost.

With this week marking 100 days to go until the 2018 London Illegal Wildlife Trade Conference, the Government has today (Monday 2 July) announced ambitious new plans and funding for tackling the illegal wildlife trade across the world. The Secretaries of State for the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, Defra, and DFID announced a £44.5 million boost for anti-wildlife trafficking projects around the world.

The Foreign Secretary set out the Government’s ambition to reduce the illegal killing of African elephants for ivory by at least one third by 2020, and to further halve this rate by 2024. Achieving this will be another significant step to safeguard endangered species from extinction, in a decade of action since the 2014 London Declaration committed to fight the illegal wildlife trade.

To help make this ambition a reality, the Government will launch the Ivory Alliance 2024, bringing together a network of global leaders, conservationists and experts to engage with countries where ivory demand and trafficking is high. It will work with partners globally to increase the number of countries committed to domestic ivory bans to more than 30 by 2020 and for tougher enforcement against those caught breaking the law. The UK has already set itself as a global leader on this issue, with a domestic ivory ban announced in April 2018.

Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson said:

“More than 20,000 African elephants are killed every year, fuelling the despicable illegal ivory market and poachers’ dirty profits. We need immediate and effective global action to decapitate this terrible trade. The new Ivory Alliance 2024 will play a key role in closing those markets which are driving elephants to extinction.

“The UK will be at the vanguard of global efforts to defeat the illegal wildlife trade in 2018 and we will bring world leaders together for talks in October to find a solution. We cannot simply sit back and watch as more endangered species are wiped out by criminal kingpins and corrupt middlemen who are robbing local communities in Africa and Asia of sustainable livelihoods.”

Defra have announced £4.5 million for 14 new Challenge Fund projects to combat the illegal wildlife trade by addressing demand reduction, strengthening enforcement and criminal justice, and providing alternative livelihoods.

Projects that will receive funding include supporting eco-guardians and community enforcement networks to protect elephants, a ‘payback’ scheme for the perpetrators of IWT and the development of strong room best practice guidelines for the storage of seized illegal ivory. There will also be funding provided to disrupt the poaching affecting iconic species such as Sumatran tigers and snow leopards.

Environment Secretary, Michael Gove said:

“Environmental challenges do not respect borders, and require coordinated international action.

“Our Illegal Wildlife Trade Challenge Fund is driving change to combat this despicable criminality. The 14 projects range across 27 countries and showcase measures from criminal justice to education. These priorities reflect our commitment in the 25 Year Environment Plan to work with other nations to stamp out this vile trade.

“The fund, alongside our introduction of one of the world’s toughest bans on ivory sales, shows our global leadership in protecting wildlife in its natural environment.”

DFID and Defra have also helped secure an increase of up to £40m in international efforts to protect global nature including helping to end the wildlife trade over the next four years. This is through a 30% increase to the Global Environment Facility’s Global Wildlife Programme – the largest single program dedicated to combat poaching, trafficking, and demand for wildlife and wildlife products.

It will see more funding than ever before being spent on projects fighting the illegal wildlife trade across Africa and Asia, including tackling corruption, strengthening border law enforcement and promoting the development of nature-based tourism. It is through these long term solutions that this trade can be ended permanently.

The International Development Secretary Penny Mordaunt said:

“The illegal wildlife trade not only puts the world’s most endangered species at risk, but fuels the corruption and crime which hold back development for some of the poorest nations.

“The UK is leading the way in raising ambitions around the world to make sure we put an end to this crime for good. We have now secured more international support to protect wildlife than ever before, which will also improve the lives of the vulnerable communities who live alongside it.”

Later today, the three Secretaries of State will host an event at the Foreign Office, bringing together NGOs, businesses, country representatives and others who are playing a key role in fighting the illegal wildlife trade. The event will recognise the work already being done to tackle the illegal wildlife trade and encourage increased ambition by all sectors in advance of the October conference.

Dominic Jermey, Director General of ZSL, said:

“As an international conservation charity, ZSL warmly welcomes the UK Government’s commitment to tackling the illegal wildlife trade. Wildlife across the globe is being slaughtered for its skin, scales, tusks and feathers. Whether it’s elephants or rhinos, African grey parrots or pangolins – IWT has put many species directly at risk. Fresh thinking is urgently needed by Governments, working in partnership with NGOs, business and wider civil society, to tackle IWT. I’m delighted to see the UK committing to this leading role.”

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