June 18, 2019
By Yusufu S. Bangura
The National Protected Area Authority (NPAA) and the Mano River Union (MRU) have on Tuesday held a two-day workshop with the view to taking concrete steps to stop illegal wildlife trade in Sierra Leone and MRU countries.
The workshop which was held at the Bintumani Hotel in Freetown was a collaborative effort by the MRU and NPAA, with support from the UK funded International Security Advisory Team (ISAT) and the US funded West Africa Biodiversity and Climate change program.
Speaking at the event, Executive Director of NPAA, Joseph Ranto Musa said the aim of the workshop was not only to outline the scale of the illegal wildlife trade in the MRU sub region, but also to engage all agencies involved in enforcing the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species and to encourage cross-border and inter-agency cooperation in tackling the problems.
He said the NPAA has provided by-laws in the Conservation Trust Fund Act of 2012, which gives the institution the mandate to effectively manage all protected areas proposed and designated in Sierra Leone.
He said in the recent rapid assessment that was done in Sierra Leone on wildlife trafficking, poachers were targeting elephants, antelopes, sea turtles and other wild animals.
He stated that for them at NPAA they were looking forward to those opportunities of addressing wildlife crime within the regional funds and to fight wildlife crime to enforce the law.
He said as a responsible government, they were committed to fighting against wildlife crimes in Sierra Leone, adding that they would require 200 main guards to fight wildlife crime within and out of the country.
He said the goal of the workshop was to examine border security, regional collaboration and coordination between security agencies and conservation agencies of the MRU member states in order to enhance the enforcement of wildlife policies and legislation.
He noted that the objective of the workshop is to design a regional security framework for the MRU countries that integrate wildlife trafficking issues as well as other security concerns and to develop a roadmap for priority interventions to build regional collaboration and capacity for combatting wildlife crime.
He said in the end they would develop, finalise and sign bilateral MOU among MRU countries on issues such as cross border patrols and joint border control for peace and security as well as combatting wildlife crime.
Secretary General of MRU, Medina Wesseh, said the presence of most of the principal partners and decision makers who work and fight against wildlife trafficking, including those responsible for establishing structures, was to combat all forms of crimes.
She stated that ministries should initiate policies and propose regulatory framework p with the need to protect the wild species and preserve their role in the eco system.
She said the two-day exchange and debate on the illegal trade in wildlife species; a global issue, whose impact on the well-being of the people of the sub-region is critical to their livelihood and the larger environment.
She further noted that the illegal wildlife trade, outside of the illegal timber and fish products trade, was now estimated to represent $7.8 to $10 billion annually, according to the World Bank.
She said despite growing awareness, as evident by the decision of the African Union at its 23rd Session in June 2014 to have a coordinated approach to combating illegal exploitation and trade in wildlife, illegal trafficking in wildlife continues unabated.
She stated that the sub region with one of the last great forest reserves in the world, was under ferocious attack.
She said the MRU Secretariat was concerned about the illegal trade in wildlife because it was not only undermining the economic and social development, but also threatening peace and security in the region.
“The Mano River Union Secretariat is determined to support and give new meaning to the old fundamental principles and let our animals live in their natural wild freely and put an end to these criminal operations, for which our hard-working rural populations are paying a high price,” she said.
She said for an effort to implement the 15th Protocol, the MRU Secretariat has developed the Cross Border Security Strategy which has six thematic areas, with the fourth addressing the improvement of Natural Resource Management.
On his part, First Lady, Fatima Jabbe Bio, thanked the organizers for bringing together the four MRU countries to discuss an issue that would end illegal wildlife trade in those countries, thus noting that the workshop was first of its kind in Freetown and symbolic of the president’s commitment to eradicate the illegal wildlife trade in the country.
She urged everyone to purse the resolution of the workshop to design a regional security framework for the MRU countries that integrate wildlife trafficking issues and to agree on protocols between the MRU countries that support joint border activities that address peace and security in the country.
British High Commissioner to Sierra Leone, Guy Warrington re-affirmed the UKs position at the forefront of efforts to protect endangered species from the unsustainable and illegal wildlife trade.
He said as a global lead, the UK was investing $45 million in tackling the illegal wildlife trade from 2014 to 2021.
“This leadership role was evident during the International IWT Conference held in London in October 2018 where global leaders agreed to help end the scourge throughout the world .We are focusing on tackling IWT as a serious and Organised Crime through enhanced collaboration to tackle associated financial flows and corruption building coalitions,” he said.
He added that through increased engagement with the private sector, NGOs and academia, they were closing markets by sharing successful approaches for reducing the demand for illegal wildlife products.
He noted that UK has committed to increasing the IWT challenge fund by $7.5 million to which applications from all ODA eligible countries are welcomed.
“$44 million of UK aid to protect critical forest habitats and species threatened by extinction and $1.2 million of new funding to develop a British military counter poaching taskforce,” he said.
Headed that stopping the illegal movement of animal or plant products across borders will in turn for example protect the environment from the spread of disease in the region.