Vienna, 3 March 2016 - Wildlife and forest crime destroys diversity and hinders sustainable development on our planet. Billions of dollars in profit are made from this crime. In 2015, 1,175 rhinos were poached in South Africa, while Central Africa has now lost 64 per cent of its elephants in less than a decade.
The industrial scale of the killing, the heinous murder of park rangers, the seizures of shipments measured not in kilos, but tons, point to organized crime's involvement in these acts of unconscionable greed.
If we are to conserve animal and plant species for successive generations, we must take on the criminals and end the impunity often associated with this crime.
To achieve this, an integrated approach is needed to reduce demand and interrupt supply through the seizure of shipments, assets and proceeds. Help must also be offered to local communities to provide alternative livelihoods, build local enterprises and to empower communities to live in harmony with their surroundings.
Crimes against wildlife and forests must also be viewed as a serious crime to trigger the application of the UN Convention against Transnational Organized Crime and to enable greater international cooperation, joint operations and the sharing of information.
The future of wildlife is in our hands, but if we are to be successful against the criminals those hands must be joined in proud partnership and close cooperation.
I welcome the commitment and efforts of Member States, UN agencies, CITES and its partners on behalf of flora and fauna everywhere. We must all work together to translate commitments into meaningful impact on the ground.
On World Wildlife Day, I urge everyone to play their part in protecting our wildlife and forests and in defeating the criminals who threaten this noble goal.
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