"It is time to get serious about wildlife crime"

This year’s theme for World Wildlife Day is right in line with one of the key goals of the World Heritage Convention: protecting sites which are home to threatened plant and animal species.

These invaluable sites are threatened more than ever, and illegal human activities such as poaching and illegal logging are some of the most worrisome.  There has been an increasing poaching pressure, due to a growing illicit trade, particularly affecting African elephants and rhinoceroses. In 2014, significant losses were reported in the populations of these species in a number of World Heritage sites, including a dramatic decline of over 80% of the elephant population in Selous Game Reserve (Tanzania) since 2005.  Illegal logging of precious timber species is also an issue: a resumption of illegal logging of rosewood (Dalbergia sp.) was reported in 2014 in some parts of the Rainforests of the Atsinanana (Madagascar), and illegal logging of Siamese rosewood (D. cochinchinensis) in Dong Phayayen-Khao Yai Forest Complex (Thailand) was reported as escalating both in intensity and violence. In 2014, poaching, illegal logging and other wildlife crimes represented a clear threat to over 50% of the natural properties examined by the World Heritage Committee at its 38th session (Doha, 2014).

As a result, the World Heritage Committee adopted Decision 38 COM 7 in which it reiterated its utmost concern about the continued impacts on World Heritage properties due to rising pressure from poaching, particularly of elephant, rhinoceros, and valuable timber species, linked to a growing illicit trade, and the increasing involvement of organized crime in this lucrative business. The World Heritage Committee also urged the 191 States Parties to the World Heritage Convention to ensure strong international collaboration and coordination to control the illicit trade in flora and fauna and their products.

World Wildlife Day is celebrated on March 3rd, the date that the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) was adopted in 1973. The goal of World Wildlife Day is to celebrate the many beautiful and varied forms of wild fauna and flora; recall the privileged interactions between wildlife and populations across the globe; and raise awareness of the urgent need to step up the fight against wildlife crime, which has wide-ranging economic, environmental and social impacts.

For many years, the Secretariat of CITES and UNESCO have joined their efforts to fight wildlife crimes, with the full support of the World Heritage Committee. Indeed, in 2014, it reiterated its request to the World Heritage Centre and IUCN to strengthen their cooperation with the Secretariat of the CITES, and also called upon the States Parties to the World Heritage Convention which are transit and destination countries for ivory and rhino horn, to support the States Parties concerned to halt the illegal trade in wildlife and its derivatives, in particular through the implementation of the CITES.

At its forthcoming 39th session (Bonn, Germany, 28 June – 8 July 2015), the World Heritage Committee will again examine the state of conservation of a number of natural World heritage properties threatened by wildlife crimes and will adopt the relevant decisions to ensure that the sites home to some of the most emblematic and threatened wildlife species are fully preserved.

Official website: http://www.wildlifeday.org/