SADC has approved proposals by the region’s environment to meet with security ministers to discuss modalities of escalating wildlife poaching and trafficking from a conservation matter to a security issue.
The environment and security ministers are also expected to come up with a regional anti-poaching unit, which will ensure a co-ordinated approach to fighting poachers.
The Sadc Council of Ministers approved the proposals in Botswana last week following the increase in cases of illegal trade and wildlife poaching, especially of elephants and rhinos.
The Sadc strategy follows resolution at last year’s UN General Assembly against wildlife crime, which all Sadc member states endorsed
A meeting in 2013 by the Committee of Intelligence and Security Services of Africa (CISSA) proposed that wildlife poaching and trafficking be treated as a national security issue and not just a conservation matter, as it is being conducted by sophisticated transnational organised criminal networks.
Chairperson of the Sadc Council of Ministers Kenneth Matambo said the region was prepared to up its game in the fight against poaching, given the increase in poaching.
“On the combating of poaching of wildlife, Council approved the proposal by ministers of Environment and Natural Resources for the convening of a meeting of the ministers of Environment and Natural Resources and ministers of (the) Organ on Politics, Defence and Security, to discuss the implementation modalities for the Sadc Law Enforcement and Anti-poaching Strategy (Leap) 2016-2021; and the establishment of a Sadc Wildlife Crime Prevention and Coordination Unit and that this should be considered as part of the restructuring process of the Sadc Secretariat,” Matambo said.
Leap was endorsed last year by environment ministers from Sadc member states.
The wide-ranging strategy focuses on five priority issues – strengthening legislation and judicial processes, minimising wildlife crime and illegal wildlife trade, enhancing community engagement in natural resource management, promoting sustainable trade and use of natural resources, and improving field protection.
Leap also outlines a collective approach to wildlife conservation and protection in the region, and establishes a Sadc Wildlife Crime Prevention and Coordination Unit to co-ordinate the efforts of the national task forces.
According to the International Union for Conservation of Nature, rampant poaching in the sub-Saharan range has resulted in the deaths of 100 000 elephants from 2011 to 2013.
In 2013, Zimbabwe lost more than 300 elephants in Hwange National Park due to cyanide poisoning, while in some Sadc countries the elephant population has been decreasing.
The Great Elephant Census, an international organisation which provides data on the number and distribution of the African elephant, says Tanzania’s elephant population fell by 60% to 43 330 between 2009 and 2014.
Mozambique lost half of its elephant population during the same period, leaving 10 300 jumbos.