gov.uk- Speech: Minister for Africa urges action to tackle illegal wildlife trade
Minister for Africa Harriett Baldwin praises African conservation efforts but calls for international cooperation to tackle poachers and the illegal ivory trade.
The Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson sends his congratulations to everyone involved in the incredible work here. It is great to be here with you in beautiful Botswana.
President Khama has been a towering force in what is appropriately named the Giants Club. Botswana’s abundance of diverse wildlife is testament to the fantastic job that President Khama, Space for Giants, and many other committed people and organisations are doing to protect these wonders and their natural habitat. I’d like to pay tribute to the founding members of this Club – the Presidents of Botswana, Gabon, Kenya, and Uganda. We’ve heard the strength of their ongoing commitment today, and they are an inspiration to Africa and the rest of the world.
I want to hear more from the Giants Club, and from the other African delegates here today, about the action you think needs to be taken to realise African ambitions for a type of conservation that brings economic benefit to African communities. I want to say that the UK stands ready to help.
Illegal Wildlife Trade
We are all here because we understand just how tragically short-sighted the illegal wildlife trade is and because we know that if we don’t act now, it will be too late, as many species could be approaching extinction. In 1979 there were 1.3 million African elephants, today there are only 415,000. And their populations are declining at an alarming rate, which is why we need action now.
The illegal wildlife trade is threatening not only elephants, but many of the world’s endangered species – species that define national identities, and heavily influence economic development. We are all here because we know we need to preserve these riches, not destroy them. We also know that tragically, the curse of this trade is two-fold; as poaching and the illegal wildlife trade also has a deeply corrosive effect on human society.
Poachers are now coming armed to the teeth, endangering not only animals’ lives, but human lives too. They undermine state institutions and governance, they illegally exploit your countries’ natural resources, often to benefit people and networks beyond your borders, and they foster the corruption which feeds discontent and insecurity.
This insecurity can damage livelihoods and hold back development as well as robbing people of their economic potential. The criminals responsible must not be allowed to fracture your societies and plunder your children’s futures.
These are the reasons that I and the Foreign Secretary are so passionate about tackling this illegal trade head-on. We believe the work you are doing. We believe in the cooperation between your countries through the Giants Club, and we believe that that is the key to achieving real change.