Minister Edna Molewa welcomes some of the provisions of the London Declaration on illegal Wildlife Trade

18 February 2014


South Africa’s Minister of Water and Environmental Affairs, Mrs Edna Molewa, welcomes some of the provisions contained in the London Declaration on Illegal Wildlife Trade, concluded last week.

Unfortunately, South Africa could not be represented at a political level at the Conference due to the opening of Parliament.

South Africa notes that the Declaration recognises the scale and consequences of the illegal trade in wildlife that result in devastating impacts on species, ecosystems, sustainable livelihoods, economies, and national and regional security.

Minister Molewa notes and welcomes the following provisions contained in the London Declaration on Illegal Wildlife Trade:

  • Eradication of the demand for illegal wildlife products;
  • Establishment of effective global legal frameworks;
  • Strengthening of enforcement measures, including the ability to successfully prosecute; and
  • The recognition of the importance and significance of sustainable livelihoods and economic development in the conservation of endangered species. 

South Africa however, noted with some disappointment, provisions in the declaration that are in conflict with and undermines decisions reached through legally binding multilateral environmental agreements, including decisions taken at the 16th Conference of Parties to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES).

Political and technical discussions between South Africa and Britain on the proposed Declaration, prior to the Conference, failed to deliver agreement on a number of fundamental policy matters. Among others, this included the intended adoption of parties agreeing not to trade in wildlife products or the sustainable utilization of natural resources, which would be in conflict with existing South African policy.

“We are fighting against rhino poaching and not against sustainable utilization. Any default policy change leading to non-utilization, done in the name of anti-poaching is clearly problematic as it goes against our principles of sustainable utilisation,” Minister Molewa said.

There was also no prior agreement regarding placing a moratorium on wildlife trade, particularly since the 16th Conference of Parties to CITES in March 2013 did not, for example, extend the moratorium on ivory trade, but re-confirmed the decision that a decision-making mechanism for trade in ivory must be developed for consideration at the 17th CoP to CITES In 2016. With regards to rhino poaching, Parties agreed to take certain steps to fight rhino poaching and all related illegal activities.  The Parties to CITES have to report on actions taken at the next Conference of Parties in 2016.

“Our non-attendance of the conference should not be construed as a decline in the government’s commitment to addressing the scourge of rhino poaching, or an indication of apathy or a move towards isolation on this important issue. The government is addressing the poaching of rhino by unscrupulous poachers nationally and internationally and ensuring that those responsible for the decimation of this iconic species are brought to book,” said the Minister.

The South African government will continue to work with the United Kingdom and other countries as partners in the fight against any form of illicit wildlife trade. It is a partnership in which respect for one another’s policies will continue. 

Despite the increase in the number of rhino poached, South Africa, as the last bastion of the rhino, remains committed to, and continues to be actively involved in actions on a national, regional and international level, including through the implementation of decisions taken at the Conference of Parties to CITES.

Due to sustainable utilisation and adaptive management practices, South Africa has developed and maintained a proud conservation record, and communities have contributed to the conservation of species while benefiting financially from the restoration and protection of species.

The Minister and the Department support all international efforts to strengthen collaboration to effectively address the illegal wildlife trade and to find mechanisms to protect all species, including iconic species, such as the elephant, rhino and tiger, from the threat of extinction.

“We have been engaging various parties locally and internationally and will continue to do so, as part of our efforts to fight ongoing illicit wildlife trade. We continue to subscribe to multilateralism whilst also working with other parties at bilateral and other levels as part of our multi-pronged strategy involving a number of stakeholders,” Minister Molewa said.

South Africa is aware that wildlife crimes not only threatens the future of a species, but undermine economic growth. In South Africa, poaching threatens the future of a tourism industry dependent on the Big Five, the tourism economy and ultimately jobs.

For more information contact:

Albi Modise
Cell: 083 490 2871