Photo: John Donaldson

New project will strengthen capacity and information systems for effective management of wildlife trade

World Wildlife Day is celebrated annually on the 3rd of March in support of animals and plants across the world. It is an important event to raise awareness of the extraordinary diversity of wildlife and marine life that we have today. With increasing numbers of endangered and extinct species, it is extremely important to educate people on how we can help conserve the planet to continue to provide for future generations.

Every year, World Wildlife Day has a different theme, this year it will be celebrated under the theme “Forests and Livelihoods: Sustaining People and Planet”, as a way to highlight the central role of forests, forest species and ecosystems services in sustaining the livelihoods of hundreds of millions of people globally, and particularly of Indigenous and local communities with historic ties to forested and forest-adjacent areas.

South Africa is recognized for its species diversity and endemism, as well as its diversity of ecosystems. The country’s wildlife provides an important ecological resource for the country and is critical for the livelihoods of communities that live with them. Escalating wildlife crime threatens these precious resources, and can lead to insecurity and economic losses from reduced tourism.

The South African Government is committed to combatting illegal wildlife trade, the Department of Environment, Forestry and Fisheries is implementing a 5-year Global Environment Facility (GEF) project titled: ‘Strengthening institutions, information management and monitoring to reduce the rate of illegal wildlife trade in South Africa’. The objective of the project is to fight against illegal wildlife trade through institutional strengthening, improved information management and monitoring.

The project will run for 5 years and is implemented with the support of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP). It is the Country’s contribution to the World Bank’s Global Wildlife Programme (GWP).

Implementing partners of the project, in addition to the Department, are:

  • South African National Parks (SANParks),
  • Peace Parks Foundation (PPF) and
  • South African National Biodiversity Institute (SANBI).

SANBI component will strengthen capacity and information systems for wildlife monitoring

The project has three components and the SANBI-led component focuses on increased capacity within Scientific Authority of South Africa (SAoSA) for advising on legal and sustainable wildlife trade. The SAoSA monitors both legal and illegal trade in specimens of TOPS (threatened or protected species) and CITES (Convention on the International Trade in Endangered Species) species. The SAoSA also makes recommendations on applications for permits to undertake restricted activities with TOPS species, publishes non-detriment findings and provides advice on the TOPS regulations, amongst others.

The intention of SANBI-led component of the project is to strengthen the capacity of the SAoSA members to provide scientific oversight and to put in place a coordinated monitoring system for at least priority species (big cats, elephant, rhino) that can then be jointly implemented by all the member organisations together with other partners. This Component will be achieved through two outputs:

  • Output 1.1 SAoSA member institutions are trained in effective wildlife trade monitoring and assessment.
  • Output 1.2 A centralised system for monitoring wildlife in trade is established.

Output 1.1 SAoSA member institutions are trained in effective wildlife trade monitoring and assessment.

The output aims to have a SAoSA consisting of well trained scientists with experience of different wildlife trade issues. In addition,  young candidates will be identified in each of the relevant institutions, together with interns housed in SANBI, and the project will assist with capacity building by expose them to a programme of training and expeditions to fast track their knowledge of wildlife trade.

Activities for Output 1.1 include:

  • Develop and implement a capacity and skills development strategy for the SAoSA secretariat and provincial scientific services to monitor and report wildlife trade
  • Build the capacity of the SAoSA secretariat to monitor and report on wildlife trade
  • Provincial scientific services are able to monitor and report wildlife trade
  • Establish a functional cohort of 6-9 young wildlife professionals or interns
  • Regional collaboration and outreach developed and implemented to address illegal wildlife trade in the region

 Output 1.2 A centralised system for monitoring wildlife in trade is established.

This output is a coordinated system of wildlife monitoring with centralised/shared information. This will have agreed protocols and recording systems together with semi-automated analyses. Much of the monitoring capacity exists in the provinces and conservation agencies, and also amongst private wildlife owners, so the funding will be used to develop consistent and agreed monitoring protocols, to coordinate inputs, and to develop a system for uploading, sharing and analysing monitoring data.

Activities for Output 1.2

  • Review and analysis of current wildlife monitoring systems in place (for biodiversity and for wildlife trade) and the databases that are available in country for the key species in trade
  • Design and implement a national monitoring system for use across the SAoSA member institutions
  • Hold training workshops on how to input data to the system and their subsequent analyses
  • Produce and disseminate communication materials on new working model
  • Develop and roll-out a national monitoring and reporting system
  • Case studies are carried out for key species subject to illegal wildlife trade
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