Private businesses could transform global fight against wildlife crime

New initiatives in transport and shipping show value of collaboration between private and public sectors

Michael Pflanz
Thursday 14 October 2021 09:09
<p>The private sphere has a key role to play in efforts to halt poaching</p>

The private sphere has a key role to play in efforts to halt poaching

Companies and investors in sectors far removed from conservation all have a role to play in ending the multi-billion dollar illegal wildlife trade, according to a keynote panel and a running theme through the Climate and Biodiversity Week at Dubai Expo.

Conservation organisations and governments have been left to lead efforts to protect nature and disrupt international poaching networks, but the private sector now has to step in and play its part, the audience heard.

The panel was part of a series of events sponsored and hosted by DP World, one of the world’s largest logistics and supply chain companies operating in 55 countries.

“Very often the private sector feels quite removed from this, they think this is not something we have direct influence over, they look at it as an animal issue,” said Ayla Bajwa, DP World’s head of sustainability and impact, who spoke on the panel.

“We as the private sector need to elevate it and say, no it’s not an issue about wild animals, it’s an issue about biodiversity, and that affects all of us. What’s very important is for companies like DP World to have open communication with the various stakeholders, the law enforcement bodies, local governments, regulatory bodies, and get them together and say, we all play a part in this value chain.”

The illegal trade in wildlife was among the planet’s four most lucrative illicit trades, worth in excess of $20 billion a year, said Dr Max Graham, founder and CEO of Space for Giants, an international conservation organisation operating in 10 African countries, which partnered the Independent on our Stop the Illegal Wildlife Trade campaign.

“It’s a massive corrupting influence, it’s affecting local communities, who are often affected by violence, as a consequence of this trade, it’s affecting businesses, it’s affecting governments, it’s undermining the rule of law,” said Dr. Graham, who moderated the panel.

“It really requires addressing in a big way. It’s a combination of government, NGOs, and the private sector, which is so key in terms of driving relationships and providing financial muscle.”

The implications of the illegal wildlife trade for countries that still hold immense biodiverse landscapes touched on economics, society, international relations, and security, as well as environment, said Mateus Mutemba, Director General of Mozambique’s National Administration of Conservation Areas.

That prompted his country’s national government to approach the battle against the illegal wildlife trade “with a strong emphasis on integrated development”, he said.

“We have targeted different stakeholders in society at large, with regards to the importance of wildlife and the importance of biodiversity as a natural asset, as a public good,” he said. “Whoever does poaching steals from us all, like how anyone who steals taxes steals money from the people.”

Focusing on private businesses involved in transport, shipping, and logistics would have a multiplier effect on disrupting all levels of the international illegal wildlife trade cartels.

“The massive opening up of transportation networks has meant that somebody can pick up a phone in one country and, to order, demand wildlife to be shipped to them within days,” said Dr Andrew Terry, director of conservation and policy for the Zoological Society of London.

That was a problem but also an opportunity, said Ian Cruickshank, transport taskforce manager for United for Wildlife, backed by The Duke of Cambridge and The Royal Foundation, which brings together conservationists, governments and the private sector.

“Most criminals don’t operate transnational transport networks, they don’t have their own ships, they don’t have their own planes or ports, they’re using our infrastructure,” he said. “They are tarnishing the names of different companies. Therein lies the opportunity to work with companies, for instance DP World, with NGOs, with governments, to examine transport chains to put our own networks in place to counter these networks using our transport infrastructure.”

With the Zoological Society of London, United for Wildlife and its Transport Taskforce has drawn up a pledge for the private sector calling for the mobilization of public and private resources to stamp out the illegal trade by 2030. DP World’s group chairman and CEO, Sultan Ahmed Bin Sulayem, became the first signatory to the pledge during the October 6 events.

DP World is already working on extensive measures to tackle illegal wildlife trafficking, including installing additional scanners at ports and facilities to step up inspections. All staff are being trained and whistleblower policies were in place for employees to report suspicions.

DP World set up the United for Wildlife Transport Taskforce which brings together airlines, customs authorities and other stakeholders in the region to disrupt supply chains for wildlife trafficking.

DP World is also a member of the Giants Club, an initiative of Space for Giants which brings together African Heads of State, leaders of major businesses, philanthropists, global influencers, and wildlife conservation experts to protect under-threat landscapes.

The Club unites this high-level political, financial and technical leadership to safeguard nature and create wildlife economies that unlock the ecological and economic value of these areas to secure their long-term viability.

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