Working together to tackle the serious organised crime of the illegal wildlife trade

An intervention by the Acting Minister of Environmental Affairs Mr Derek Hanekom at the London conference on Illegal Wildlife Trafficking (IWT) in the United Kingdom

11 October 2018

South Africa would like to thank our hosts, the government of the United Kingdom, for their foresight and leadership in arranging this initiative which provides a platform to engage a multitude of stakeholders at a time when a targeted effort to address illegal wildlife trade has never been more critical.

Wildlife trafficking is not only a conservation and environmental management problem, but constitutes a highly sophisticated form of serious transnational organised crime that is also a threat to national security. As a party to a number of International Multilateral Environmental Agreements, including CITES, South Africa is committed to conserving its natural resources and ensuring that international trade in listed wildlife species does not threaten their survival in the wild.

Our integrated and multi-disciplinary strategy to tackle wildlife trafficking is aligned with our objective of securing sustained and inclusive economic growth.

Over the last few years we have significantly increased our ability to not only detect and counter wildlife poaching and trafficking, but also to more effectively tackle the scourge of transnational organised crime. 

South Africa is home to more than 20,000 rhinos – more than 80% of the world’s rhino population. We owe it to our people - and to the world - to fiercely defend the continued existence of these magnificent animals.

Since the beginning of 2016 to date, we have:

  • arrested 1 563 rhino poachers ;
  • arrested 59 rhino horn traffickers ;
  • seized close to 500 kilograms of rhino horn; and
  • we have seized assets worth approximately R76 million ($5.1 million).

Furthermore, this year alone 70 cases, involving 163 accused, were finalised. These trials resulted in a conviction rate of 93%, translating into a total of 288 years of imprisonment.

The successful implementation of our strategies has resulted in a significantly downward trend in rhino poaching in our country.  We are committed to continue our collaboration, strategically and operationally, at the national, regional and international level which is crucial to effectively combating the illegal trade in wildlife. We cannot stress strongly enough the importance of meaningful collaboration and sharing of information between source, transit and consumer countries – without this we will never be able to dismantle the syndicates threatening the survival of our natural heritage!

We would like to express our profound appreciation to the UK government for bringing together a thousand delegates from more than 80 countries from around the world, including a host of NGOs and institutions, who will emerge from this conference with strengthened resolve and strategies to win this fight against greedy criminals who are destroying our planet and depriving millions of people of their heritage and livelihoods.

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About the Illegal Wildlife Trafficking (IWT) conference:

The London 2018 Illegal Wildlife Trade Conference is being held October 10-11, 2018. This is the fourth consecutive conference on IWT, after London in 2014 through to Kasane in 2015 and Hanoi in 2016, with aims to bring together international leadership and secure political commitment to bring an end to IWT. The conference was launched by ministers together with NGOs, academics and key countries affected by IWT, after the government announced new plans to ban ivory sales in the UK.

For more information, follow this link: London Conference on Illegal Wild-life Trade 2018