Governments, international governmental organizations and NGOs met last week in Peru at the First High Level Conference of the Americas on Wildlife Trade to discuss new challenges and opportunities surrounding illegal wildlife trade (IWT) in the region. This conference was the first regional meeting of the Americas on the issue of IWT and is an opportunity to unite nations in the prevention and coordinated control of this organized global crime. Nations from across the Americas as well as destination countries for wildlife products met to exchange best practices and highlight the importance for coordinated control of wildlife trade and adopt a regional declaration.
Alejandra Goyenechea, Senior International Counsel, Defenders of Wildlife issued this statement:
“This meeting is a testament to the commitment of these nations to conserving wildlife and protecting biodiversity in one of the richest ecosystems on earth. Defenders of Wildlife is proud to be a part of the discussion and we look forward to partnering with these countries to implement effective strategies that will ensure future generations can enjoy Latin America’s natural treasures.”
The following decisions and initiatives are part of the regional declaration from this conference:
• Declare the jaguar an emblematic species of the Americas because of its importance in maintaining natural landscapes and functional ecosystems; its role as a spiritual and cultural icon for peoples throughout the Latin American region; and as a symbol of the fight against illegal wildlife trade
• Adopt the use of financial investigation techniques and support public-private partnerships to identify illegal transactions and networks associated with illegal wildlife trafficking
• Promote and strengthen cooperation across borders and regions to improve the coordination, investigation, prosecution and punishment of wildlife crimes
• Develop studies to determine the density and distribution of species affected by illegal wildlife trade
• Encourage active participation, close collaboration and strategic relationships with local and indigenous peoples and communities, NGOs, academia and the private sector to reduce the demand for wildlife products and develop alternative means of economic development to replace wildlife trade
• Develop and implement educational materials and programs for schools to teach youth the importance of protecting and conserving wildlife
In 2018 government agencies and NGOs gathered for the London Conference on Illegal Wildlife Trade, which produced the London Declaration, an emphasis on the importance of: regional and international collaboration; recognition of the impact IWT has on local communities; treating IWT as a serious and organized crime; and taking measures to reduce the demand for wildlife products.
The meeting in Peru was a follow-up to the London Declaration, focusing on the production of updated strategies for fighting for species survival in Latin America. Operations such as poaching and species extraction that operate in Latin America affect the security, community, ecosystems and economy of the region. Strategies included harmonizing legal frameworks and implementation, regulating trade, using new technology to combat trade and reducing the demand for products through effective communication and education.