BY ARNOLD LETSHOLO
Botswana and China are on the tracks to eradicate the global market for illegal wildlife products.
This, it has been revealed, is prompted by the undeniable fact that illegal trade in wildlife is no longer limited to conservation within source countries, but it is increasingly being used by transnational criminal organizations and terrorist groups to fund their militant activities which threaten international peace and security.
The Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Environment, Thato Yaone Raphaka told a workshop on “collaboration to combat wild life crime” at the Chinese Embassy, Gaborone last week that Botswana has been in the forefront in recent years in spearheading the fight against wildlife crime.
Raphaka said a conference on the Illegal Wildlife Trade (IWT) was held in March 2016, whose primary aim was to, inter alia, review status of implementation of actions agreed as part of the London Declaration. The conference culminated in the endorsement of the ‘Kasane Statement’; which stressed the need to rid the market of illegal wildlife products, ensure effective legal frameworks and deterrents, strengthen law enforcement, and facilitate sustainable livelihoods.
“We need action at national and regional levels to tighten existing international controls on the import and export of illegal wildlife products, particularly ivory. In addition, we need to strengthen partnerships among source, transit and destination countries to combat the illegal wildlife trade and its value chain,” said Raphaka.
The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, he said have been engaged to capacitate prosecutors and authorities engaged in law enforcement to effectively investigate and prosecute financial crimes associated with wildlife crime.
He underpinned that there also was need to enable the confiscation of proceeds of crime derived from illegal wildlife trade offences, to ensure that criminals involved in the illegal wildlife trade do not benefit from the proceeds of their crimes. Thus, Botswana is working with Financial Intelligence Agency (FIA) and Directorate on Corruption and Economic Crime (DCEC) with regard to the detection of money laundering and other financial crime in connection with this trade.
Furthermore, he underscored that Botswana has recently gone through the International Consortium on Combating Wildlife Crime (ICCWC) Wildlife and Forest Crime Analytical Toolkit process.
He indicated that they are keen to engage international partners for capacity building in a variety of areas such as forensics, and deployment of technology to apprehend those who attempt to smuggle contraband across borders, the use DNA to determine the source of ivory and other wildlife products and strengthen networks to exchange information and intelligence.
Other efforts to combat this crime, he said, include the amendment of the Wildlife Conservation and National Parks Act to bring it into full compliance with the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES).
Dr He Jinxing from Chinese Department of International Affairs highlighted that his country enacted statutes of CITES . That China’s National Interagency CITES Enforcement Coordination Group (NICECG) was established in December 2011and is now including 12 departmental members from nine Ministries. By December 2013, he said provincial CITES enforcement coordination groups had been set up in all the 31 provinces of China.
This he said, is evidenced by enforcement of Article 151 which stipulates that the smuggling of precious and rare species of wildlife as well as the products thereof shall be sentenced to fixed- term imprisonment between five and ten years, with concomitant fine; if the circumstances are especially serious, shall be sentenced to imprisonment of over ten years; up to life sentence, with concomitant confiscation of property…
Another is article 24 for the Network Security Law, enacted on June 1, 2017.
Dr Jinxing said they have also strengthened environmental protection of overseas investment. He explained; “When investing overseas, Chinese enterprises shall not contravene laws, regulations or customs in environment protection of the host country (region). Their enterprises should fulfill their social responsibility of protecting the environment of the host country.”
China he said suspended trade and use of rhino horn, including from Pre-convention from 1993.