27 July, Colombia: Some of the largest financial institutions, transport companies, law enforcement agencies and conservation groups in Latin America gathered this week in Santa Marta, Colombia to join forces in the fight against the illegal wildlife trade.
Wild cat conservation NGO Panthera were among the new signatories who joined United for Wildlife’s global network, pledging to take leadership roles within their industries to help end wildlife crime.
The event, hosted by United for Wildlife and the British Embassy in Colombia, and supported by the Government of Colombia, was also attended by the British Ambassador to Colombia and representatives from the Colombian Ministry of Environment
The conference marked the launch of the United for Wildlife Latin America and Caribbean Chapter, which will foster collaboration across the public, private and not-for-profit sectors in the region to identify, report and prevent wildlife trafficking. The new Chapter will facilitate the development of a more unified strategy to tackle the illegal wildlife trade in Latin America and the Caribbean, strengthen existing partnerships and better support local priorities.
The Latin America and Caribbean Chapter is the seventh regional chapter to launch, following East Africa, Southern Africa, Hong Kong and Southeast Asia, Australasia, Middle East and North Africa, and North America.
“Given the extraordinarily rich biodiversity of Latin America and the Caribbean, it is unsurprising that the region is a highly desirable target for those involved in wildlife crime. Despite the challenges faced in the region, Latin America is leading the way, both in awareness of the illegal wildlife trade and the strength of its law enforcement response in combatting it.”
“Existing regional expertise, combined with the collective innovation of some of the world’s largest financial institutions and transport companies that form United for Wildlife’s global network, is vital if we are to bring down the intricate networks behind this heinous crime.”
Lord Hague of Richmond, Chair of The Royal Foundation
As the world’s most biodiverse region, Latin America and the Caribbean is a significant target for wildlife trafficking, a crime that impacts communities, economies and biodiversity as well as our planet’s resilience to climate change.
The event highlighted the regional illegal wildlife trade threats and movement corridors in Latin America, including marine trafficking and ocean protection. Delegates marked the Chapter launch with the release of key marine species at risk of trafficking, including nursing sharks, green turtles and a loggerhead turtle, back into their natural habitat.
The illegal wildlife trade is worth up to $20 billion annually and is run by highly organised criminal networks associated with violent crime, corruption and other forms of trafficking. Defeating it requires a global, organised response, with root and branch intelligence sharing between front-line conservationists all the way up to national government and international organisations.
By working with the UK government in Colombia, as well as other countries and British Government missions in the region, the Latin America and Caribbean Chapter will convene cross-sector stakeholders and support local leadership in tackling wildlife crime.
“Latin America and the Caribbean is home to over 50% of the world’s biodiversity. What happens to nature here has an impact on people everywhere. That is why the UK is so invested in protecting the region’s threatened flora and fauna. We look forward to working with United for Wildlife in their vital mission to bring together government, business and law enforcement to help bring an end to the illegal wildlife trade.”
George Hodgson, British Ambassador to Colombia
Founded by Prince William and The Royal Foundation in 2014, and delivered in partnership with the UNODC, United for Wildlife aims to make it impossible for traffickers to transport, finance or profit from wildlife trafficking. Its unique collaborative approach has united nearly 400 international financial institutions, transport companies, law enforcement agencies, and non-governmental organisations to date.
In the six years since creating its international transport and financial taskforces, the United for Wildlife network has contributed to nearly 500 law enforcement cases, over 300 arrests, over 200 seizures of wildlife products and has trained over 100,000 people. The network spans the globe – from Southeast Asia to South America, Europe to East Africa – increasing deterrents across the entire chain of demand and supply.