At the17th Global Summit World Travel and Tourism Council, CITES Secretary-General John Scanlon called upon global leaders of the tourism and travel sector to join the fight against illegal wildlife trade in this special year the UN International Year of Sustainable Tourism for Development.
In his keynote address, CITES Secretary-General John Scanlon said: “The reality is that you are not a fringe player in this fight – you are right at the center of it, you are there on the front line of this fight along with the customs and rangers and inspectors. How you engage with your staff, your customers and local communities, and where and how you choose to invest, can change the trajectory of the survival of our wildlife like no one else can – and you will be protecting the natural assets that underpin wildlife based tourism. You can be a key reason why we turn around the wildlife extinction crisis.”
Drawing upon examples in Nepal and Kenya, Mr. Scanlon said that the evidence shows that when locals have a stake in wildlife, they will be its best protectors. It is therefore important to invest locally and to engage directly with and support local communities. He reached out to the tourism and travel sector to join the fight and to:
- Actively promote responsible wildlife-based tourism – tell people who love wildlife not just to tweet about it, but to get out and experience it!
- Raise awareness among their customers about illegal wildlife trade and how they can assist in the fight, including by not buying illegal or unsustainably sourced wildlife products;
- Educate their staff about illegal wildlife trade. Let them be the eyes and ears of the police and empower them to always report any illegal activities and to share information with enforcement authorities, and
- Most importantly, to invest locally.
The speech highlighted that many wildlife destinations are remote from capitals in places where there may be limited employment opportunities. But this may open up opportunities for operators who can invest in local communities in a way that will benefit them and their business and benefit wildlife at the same time.
“You have the power to lift local people out of poverty in a manner that will be mutually beneficial and self-sustaining – whereas poaching only puts them into a poverty spiral. Or you can choose not to engage with local communities and to invest in a manner that sees all of the profits go off shore – in which case you are no better than the poachers and the smugglers”, said Scanlon.
“The future of wildlife is truly in our hands – and we here at CITES are ready and willing to work with you to help make sure our children are not standing on a podium in 2050 and talking of elephants, rhinos, lions, tigers, sharks or rays in the same way as we talk of dinosaurs and the Dodo”, concluded Scanlon.
In his keynote address, Scanlon highlighted the great success in engaging the transport sector in the fight against illegal wildlife trade through the United for Wildlife Transport Task force, established by HRH The Duke of Cambridge, and resulting in the Buckingham Palace Declaration, signed by over 50 transport companies.