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Illegal wildlife trade

Jennifer CollinsMarch 23, 2015

Despite international agreements to combat illegal wildlife trade, poaching and trafficking is booming. Governments are meeting Wednesday in Botswana to evaluate current measures.

Alt: Tusks in flames (Photo: James Morgan/WWF )
Ivory goes up in smoke as part of an effort to stop poaching. The market for illegal animal products is boomingImage: picture-alliance/James Morgan/WWF

As illegal wildlife activity reaches alarmingly high levels worldwide, governments are meeting in Kasane, Botswana, Wednesday to discuss the success of current measures against poaching and wildlife trafficking.

The intergovernmental Conference on Illegal Wildlife Trade will evaluate the 2014 London Declaration signed by 41 governments, recognizing illegal wildlife trade as a crime connected to corruption and organized criminality and promising to implement effective deterrents to eradicate the market for illicit wildlife products.

Still, despite such international agreements and global efforts to halt illegal wildlife trade, well-organized syndicates continue to kill animals in their thousands for pelts, horns and other prized features, say anti-poaching groups.

The number of rhinos killed in South Africa alone in 2014 jumped by 21 percent compared to 2013, while elephants continue to be killed in their tens of thousands for ivory, according to the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW), which says governments have to turn promises into action.

"Poaching has developed into a very serious crisis situation," said Robert Kless, a campaigner for IFAW Germany, in a statement on Friday March 20. "In the last 15 months, dozens of governments promised to do something against every part of the supply chain for illegal wildlife products. But promises aren't enough."

Silver-lining: national and local conservation efforts can work

Countries such as Cambodia have become a hotspot for the mafia-style trade in animal products, driven primarily for demand from China. But private animal conservationists with US organization "Wildlife Alliance" are working with the Cambodian police and forest authorities to combat the trend.

A man holds a rhino horn (Photo: STRINGER/AFP/Getty Images)
Thousands of rhinos are killed annually, especially as demand for rhino horn powder, the party drug of choice, increases in AsiaImage: STRINGER/AFP/Getty Images

#videobig# The Phnom Tamao Wildlife Sanctuary, just outside Phnom Penh is home to nearly 1,200 animals, including crocodiles, bears, elephants and tigers - all of which were confiscated at customs.

IFAW says better implementation of conservation measures coupled with stricter law enforcement has also proved successful in increasing the tiger population in India. Between 2011 and 2014, the number of tigers increased from 1,706 to 2,226.

#videobig# In Kasigau Corridor, located between Kenya's Tsavo East and Tsavo West National Parks, conservation agency, Wildlife Works, has managed to boost dwindling elephant numbers. In the early 2000s, Tsavo was devastated by poaching and drought but is once again home to a thriving elephant population.