By Magdalene Mukami
NAIROBI, Kenya (AA) – There is a dire need to target kingpins of the illegal wildlife trade in order to bring an end to the lucrative business, experts agree at a UN meeting in the Kenyan capital Nairobi Wednesday.
Addressing a high-level ministerial meeting under the UN environment assembly currently underway, conservationists raised concern that some top businessmen involved in the illegal trade were being allowed to walk free.
They called for the implementation of the United Nations and the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora, an international agreement between governments.
Achim Steiner, outgoing head of the UN Environment Program, called on global unity to end wildlife trade.
“For too long, the illegal trade in wildlife has devastated not only species but lives, livelihoods and communities across the planet. We will need collective action, from grassroots to governments, to end this threat to our irreplaceable natural treasures,” Steiner said.
“The United Nations is calling on the world to drive the illegal trade to extinction before that fate befalls wildlife,” he added.
According to the UN, over 100,000 African elephants have been killed out of a population of less than half a million elephants between 2010 and 2012.
The illegal trade in wildlife products has also increased, bringing chimpanzees to extinction in Burkina Faso, Benin, Gambia and Togo, the UN adds.
In a statement, Ivorian footballer Yaya Toure also called for concerted efforts by all to fight the illegal trade.
“On the pitch, I see how important it is to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with my teammates to take on the challenge and secure victory. The team we need to form to beat the illegal trade in wildlife is not just 11 – it is seven billion. And I hope to use my sphere of influence to ignite this movement,” Toure said.
The United Nations on Wednesday also revealed that illegal trade in wildlife products was valued at up to $213 billion annually, compared to $120 billion of official development assistance.
Over 173 ministers of environment, health and finance from 195 nations are attending the environment meeting in Nairobi.