In New York on 30 July, the 69th UN General Assembly adopted its first ever resolution on tackling poaching and wildlife trafficking. It was on the margins of the UN General Assembly in New York last September, at an event organised by the Federal Foreign Office, that Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier joined the President of Gabon to call for this resolution. He issued the following statement on 30 July:
The fight against poaching and wildlife trafficking in Africa is not only a matter of protecting endangered species but a foreign and security policy concern as well. The proceeds of poaching go to finance other criminal and often even terrorist activities, which jeopardises development in many African states and can bring about destabilisation. This resolution which Germany and Gabon have jointly sponsored is a sign that we stand opposed to that process.
Federal Environment Minister Barbara Hendricks has previously launched a number of initiatives to combat trafficking in illegal wildlife products and spoken out in favour of greater international efforts. She commented on the adoption of the resolution as follows:
The problem of poaching cannot be solved in Africa alone. It can only be overcome if all countries of origin as well as transit and target countries make an honest commitment to combat illegal wildlife products. This resolution calls on the international community to take decisive action. It is a milestone in that respect. I particularly hope that the resolution will encourage consumers to rethink their behaviour and lead to a reduction in demand.
This resolution is an important demonstration of Germany’s committed support of Africa within the United Nations. The text itself was drafted under the joint leadership of Germany and Gabon. Numerous other countries helped support it. The resolution represents a clear declaration by the international community that it intends to do more, working together, to combat the dramatic rise in poaching and wildlife trafficking. Among the important objectives of the resolution are improving criminal prosecutions, enhancing international cooperation to combat corruption and money laundering and reducing the demand for illegal products. UN Secretary-General Ban Ki‑Moon will take the resolution as a basis on which to produce a report in the coming year on the global poaching and wildlife-trafficking situation and make recommendations as to what can be done.
Poaching of rare animals and professionally organised trafficking in lucrative wildlife products have been experiencing a dangerous renaissance, representing one of the most major challenges in the endeavour to protect endangered species. Africa is particularly acutely affected by this development. In 2014 alone, more than 20,000 elephants fell victim to the hunt for ivory. If the trend continues, half of all African elephants may have disappeared in ten years’ time. In some regions, they could even die out. Rhino horn is currently fetching prices higher than gold on black markets in Asia. Poachers in South Africa killed over 1200 rhinos in 2014 alone. The Environment Minister is raising public awareness of the problem by sponsoring a young black rhinoceros in Berlin Zoo.
Globally, illegal trade in protected animal and plant products is fourth on the list of organised crime, after drugs trafficking, human trafficking and product piracy. Annual turnover is estimated at a minimum of 10 billion US dollars. The main buyers are in Asia and North America.