Addis Ababa — The International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) said that illicit trade in wildlife is a major threat to Africa.


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Speaking at a regional workshop organized to deliberate on the prevention of wildlife trafficking here yesterday, Eastern Africa Regional Director James Isiche said: "With the emerging trends in wildlife crime where organized gangs are using technology such as the Internet and mobile phones with utmost effectiveness and efficiency, the illegal trade in wildlife today, more than ever, poses a serious threat to the survival of many endangered species in Africa and globally." He also stressed the need for teaming up and working out solutions to help address the challenges that plague the continent's wildlife heritage.


"Here in Ethiopia, you say when threads unite, they can tie up a lion. We need to work together to deny these criminals our remaining wildlife heritage. Because if we don't act now, it will be gone-forever -never to be enjoyed by our children."


The Director added: "Wildlife trafficking is not a one country's problem. It is a regional and global problem. Its for us as a region and every citizens' responsibility to protect our wildlife. Because Africa is rich in wildlife heritage, African leaders have a great responsibility to at least ensure all law enforcement agencies are strong enough in the fight against wildlife trafficking."


Ethiopian Wildlife Conservation Authority (EWCA) Director General Ewnetu Bilata Debela on his part said that the main threat to the country's wildlife emanates from lack of understanding on how and why to protect and conserve, lack of awareness among different stakeholders both at federal and state levels, habitat destruction due to illegal agricultural encroachment, illegal settlement and poaching.


"At an elephant sanctuary named Babile Elephant Sanctuary 30 elephants were poached in the last 12 months. This is the maximum elephant death in Ethiopia since the establishment of the sanctuary in only a single year. Due to all these challenges, the country has not yet realized the potential economic benefits from the sector," he told workshop participants.


Accordingly, the Authority with partners has been carrying out a number of activities with regard to controlling wildlife and wildlife products trafficking. A report released by the Authority indicates that 204 smugglers had been apprehended at air ports with their illegal wildlife products. Most of the products are made of elephant tusks. "Nowadays, the illicit trade in wildlife is a major threat to Africa. Many species are poached to meet the global demand for luxury and trinkets. This alarming situation shows that all international efforts and collaboration on preventing wildlife crime should be maximized as soon as possible," he added.


The workshop is jointly organized by EWCA and IFAW. Over 1,600 personnel from various parts of the world including Ethiopian officials have been offered IFAW trainings over the last three years.

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