UN sanctions must target global kingpins in wildlife trade – Thiaw

Conservationists want the United Nations’ (UN) sanctions to target kingpins in illegal trade in wildlife products globally.

Speaking on the sidelines of the United Nations Environment Assembly (UNEA) in Nairobi, United Nations Environment Programme’s  (UNEP) Deputy Executive Director Ibrahim Thiaw says while many governments have changed laws to combat illegal wildlife trafficking, only the “small man” in the chain has been arrested while the big businessmen continue to walk free.

Two years ago, the UN Security Council (UNSC) passed resolutions that brought sanctions against armed groups in the Democratic Republic of Congo and the Central African Republic as well as their supporters in the illegal trade in natural resources.

UNEP says sanctions are one way of reining in the kingpins in the trade that costs African economies $ 213 Billion every year.

“Some of these big fishes can only be caught if yu go to the United Nations, the sanctions committee of the United Nations will have to be involved,” says Thiaw.

Illegal trade in wildlife is one of the largest trades in the world alongside trade in drugs, arms and humans.

Thiaw says “the link with conflict is obvious. More and more evidence is being found; links are being made with terrorist groups and terrorist groups.”

While African governments are collaborating and working on tougher laws to catch poachers – convictions of the culprits are few.

“When we look at the first obstacle to the fight against poaching, the first obstacle is corruption, the second obstacle is corruption and the third obstacle is corruption. Unless we deal with that, we are going nowhere,” says Ofir Drori, Head of Eagle Network.

Conservationists agree that there will be need for greater collaboration between the source, destination and transit countries if this trade is to be disrupted.