"It is time to get serious about wildlife crime."

Statement by Ambassador Shearman of the UK Mission to the UN at the General Assembly informal meeting to commemorate World Wildlife Day

This was published under the 2010 to 2015 Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition government

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Thank you Mr President, and thank you to the panelists for their very inspiring statements.

The United Kingdom agrees that it is time to get serious about wildlife crime. We cannot afford to delay. Since 1998 the number of critically endangered animals and plants has more than doubled. Species are in decline across the world, and the rate of extinctions is increasing at an alarming rate.

The illegal wildlife trade must answer for the devastating role it has played in this decline. It has led to the extinction of the Western Black Rhino and threatens countless other species. It causes the death of an elephant every 15 minutes and the death of a rhino every 8 hours. Tragically, it has also claimed the lives of over 1,000 national park and wildlife workers in the past decade.

Mr President, We ignore the trade in illegal wildlife at our peril. The monumental loss of our biodiversity will be felt by generations to come, and once the damage has been made, it cannot be undone. But the threat is not just to the natural world around us. The trade is a global criminal industry, worth more than over $19 billion a year. It harms sustainable development as the open working group recognises. It undermines national and regional stability. It finances armed groups and criminal networks and drives corruption and insecurity.

Last February, 41 countries came together to deliver a clear message at the London Conference on the Illegal Wildlife Trade. We pledged to eradicate the demand for wildlife products, strengthen law enforcement, and support the development of sustainable livelihoods for communities affected by wildlife crime. We must turn these words into action including at the follow-up conference hosted by the government of Botswana, in Kasane on 25 March.

Mr President, The United Kingdom welcomes the lead of the government of Kenya, which, as the deputy permanent representative of Kenya said yesterday, burnt 15 tonnes of ivory, worth over $30 million yesterday. It was a clear signal to those who benefit from the illegal wildlife trade that their vile economy is doomed. Whether governments or citizens, we all have a role to play in destroying demand for illegal wildlife goods. As individuals, we can choose to purchase legally and sustainably sourced products. As governments, we can lend our full support to international efforts to degrade this barbaric trade.

Mr President, The United Nations has an important role to play, including through the UNODC, UNEP and UNDP. We welcome the joint efforts of the International Consortium on Combating Wildlife Crime in providing technical assistance to Member States. We commend the efforts of UNODC in leading the Global Research on Wildlife Crime and we recognize the pivotal role of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora.

Mr President, The United Kingdom will continue to play its part. We welcome the important work of the Group of Friends on Poaching and Illicit Wildlife Trafficking lead by Germany and Gabon here in New York and we fully support the initiative of an action-oriented General Assembly Resolution. We urge all other member states to do the same.

Thank you Mr President.

Published 4 March 2015