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West Africa becoming transit point for illegal wildlife products

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West Africa is increasingly becoming a transit point for illegal wildlife products  from Central and East Africa, Mr Kwadwo Owusu-Afriyie, the Chief Executive of the Forestry Commission, has cautioned.

The region is also serving as a source for many of illegally traded species, including chimpanzees, gray parrots, pangolins and rosewood.

Mr Owusu-Afriyie gave the caution in a speech, read on his behalf, at the opening of a six-day training programme, in Accra, to build the capacity of stakeholders to halt the trafficking of wildlife or illegal trade of wildlife.

His deputy, Mr John Allotey read the speech.

Mr Owusu-Afriyie explained that the illegal trade was the result of inadequate law enforcement, weak border controls and the perception of high profit and less risk.

The Wildlife Division of the Forestry Commission is organising the programme for stakeholders, including Customs Officials from Ghana, Cape Verde and Guinea-Bissau.

They would be equipped with skills on the implementation of the “Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora” (CITES) to train related environment protection institutions in their respective countries.

Putting a stop to wildlife trafficking is necessary because the practice poses a threat to the sustenance of the natural resource base.

CITES is a legally-binding international agreement among 183 states to regulate the planet’s animals and plants and ensure that they are traded in a manner that is legal, sustainable and traceable for their survival.

Mr Owusu-Afriyie stated since 1970s, Ghana’s forest and wildlife resources had been subjected to various impacts and pressures, threatening both sustainability of timber resources and wildlife.

Habitat decline, he said, was the primary cause of endangerment of most species.

However, uncontrolled wildlife trade was a major cause of decline for some group of animals and plants.

He, therefore, urged Environmental and Natural Resource Managers and experts to halt environmental degradation, poaching and trafficking in wildlife and respond to their impact to ensure the social-economic development of people.

Mr Michael Balinga, a Biodiversity Conservation Specialist with West Africa Biodiversity and Climate Change (WA BiCC), a USAID funded project, said, Africa ran a risk of losing its natural resources, if biodiversity was not protected.

“We run a risk of our children and grandchildren not having the resources that we have now as plant and animal species are disappearing as a result of how we handle our environment.”

He called on stakeholders within the forest reserve and environmental protection agencies, including the security services, to work together to guard against the threats to biodiversity.

Mr Balinga said efforts to eradicate biodiversity trafficking and illegal trading of wildlife would yield the requisite results with the necessary commitment.

He, therefore, commended Wildlife Division of the Forestry Commission, the United States Administration for Ocean and Atmospheric Affairs (NOAA), and WA BiCC for putting the programme together.

He said it would respond to elements of wildlife strategy that ECOWAS was finalising and also support governments in their implementation of projects to protect biodiversity.

Source: GNA

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