Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) Executive Vice President for Global Conservation John Robinson released the following statement:

“The illegal wildlife trade is big business, having a devastating effect on many wildlife species and destroying the integrity of natural communities. 

“Elephants, tigers and other big cats, rhinos, parrots, pangolins, and freshwater turtles and tortoises are among the many species affected. But the effect on human livelihoods, community cohesion, income generating jobs and national economies is equally pervasive. The trade undercuts the food security and sovereignty of local people who depend directly on wildlife, and enables the emergence and spread of zoonotic diseases. It corrupts local and national institutions that seek to manage natural resources, imperiling good governance and the rule of law. It is a direct challenge to the economic, social and environmental pillars embedded in the sustainable development goals.

“The illegal wildlife trade provides revenue for organized crime syndicates and militias, exacerbates local conflict, and is linked with other transnational organized crimes. It is a national security threat.

“For these reasons and more, the Wildlife Conservation Society engaged actively in all levels with the London Conference on Illegal Wildlife Trade this week—during 2 days of the conference, and at other events in the 3 days prior to the Conference in London.

  • WCS staff from headquarters, Africa, Asia, and Europe attended the conference and actively engaged with or spoke at several sessions.
  • We participated actively in the INTERPOL Wildlife Crime Working Group, enhancing collaboration with government enforcement officials.
  • We co-sponsored and spoke at an event we co-hosted with RUSI (Royal United Services Institute) on the wildlife crime/security nexus, particularly in sub-Saharan Africa.
  • WCS signed the Declaration of the Financial Crimes Taskforce convened by HRH the Duke of Cambridge, and will work actively with banks and other financial institutions to combat wildlife crime by focusing on laundering of the proceeds of this crime.
  • WCS chaired and gave the keynote talk during a Plenary session on illegal trade in live animals, with a focus on Latin America. This was the first of the four illegal wildlife trade summits that dealt with this issue, or focused on Latin American.
  • WCS strongly supported the Nigeria/Cameroon joint statement issued at the Conference to cooperate on transboundary conservation, and is committed to working with both governments to support their joint efforts to combat wildlife trafficking and promote wildlife conservation.
  • WCS spoke at sessions of a research symposium convened at the Zoological Society of London to highlight our commitment to a science and evidence-based approach to wildlife crime.
  • WCS staff participated in a Plenary panel on the role of governance in combatting this crime.

“WCS congratulates the government of the United Kingdom for bringing the world together to focus on wildlife trafficking and strategize how governments, NGOs, and other stakeholders can collaborate to combat this scourge.

“We deeply appreciate the leadership of the Duke of Cambridge, the Duke of Sussex, and the Royal Foundation in galvanizing attention on this issue. We appreciate the engagement of heads of state, ministers, and other high level government officials from around the world, along with NGOs, private industry, and other stakeholders in coming to London for this conference.

“WCS attended the three previous illegal wildlife trade conferences—in London in 2014, Kasane in 2015, and Hanoi in 2016—and they continue to become larger and more comprehensive. We were pleased to see the enhanced engagement of high level officials, as well as enforcement, prosecution, and judiciary agencies and officials.  We were also very pleased to see the increased attention on disrupting and dismantling the criminal networks that drive this crime.

“Now is the time for action.

“We call on ALL governments to up the ante—for range, transit, and consumer countries to increase their enforcement engagement, and for donor governments and agencies to provide the funding needed to combat this insidious crime.

“The future of our world’s wildlife depends on it.”