Today, 3rd March 2018, is World Wildlife Day and I join the rest of the globe in commemorating this day whose theme is “Big cats: predators under threat”.
Significant strides made in wildlife conservation in the SADC Region face severe threat from high levels of commercial poaching and illegal trade fuelled by the growing demand in the illicit market. Illegal wildlife trade involves unregulated harvesting of a broad range of protected species that also target the large cats such as leopard, lion, and cheetah among others. There are also further worrying developments that poaching syndicates are increasingly spreading their illicit activities threatening to engulf the whole SADC Region, whose majority of Member States do not have adequate resources to protect wildlife. These iconic large cats are a major attraction for the lucrative tourism industry that contribute significantly to the regional economy. Furthermore, these species are the delicate apex species in the food pyramid that maintain the integrity of large ecosystems.
SADC Member states, therefore, are called upon to scale-up their efforts to combat illegal harvesting of large cats and indeed of other species; enhance collaborative law enforcement efforts, as well as mobilise resources for the protection of these iconic species. This could be through the implementation of the SADC Law Enforcement and Anti-Poaching (LEAP) Strategy that aims to significantly reduce the level of poaching and illegal trade in wildlife fauna and flora and enhance law enforcement capacity in the SADC Region. Increased involvement and incentives to local communities living with wildlife as first line of defence against wildlife criminals would increase success of our conservation efforts.
According to the United Nations, "World Wildlife Day is an opportunity to celebrate the many beautiful and varied forms of wild fauna and flora and to raise awareness of the multitude of benefits that conservation provides to people. At the same time, the Day reminds us of the urgent need to step up the fight against wildlife crime and human induced reduction of species, which have wide-ranging economic, environmental and social impacts. Given these various negative effects, Sustainable Development Goal #15 focuses on halting biodiversity loss. "
Her Excellency Dr. Stergomena Lawrence Tax
Executive Secretary of SADC