1. Overview of the Establishment of HAWEN regional secretariat

The illegal trade in wildlife represents a major threat to the survival of many endangered species in Africa. Recent years have seen wildlife poaching skyrocket – particularly for ivory and rhino. In 2011, between 25,000-50,000 elephants were killed for their ivory. Due to the Horn of Africa’s strategic location it has been identified as both a source and transit route for illegal wildlife trade in ivory, rhino horn, live animals, shark fins and other wildlife products between Africa, the Middle East, and Asia.

As well as having a devastating effect on the biodiversity of Eastern Africa, numerous authorities have identified a clear link between wildlife trafficking and organized international crime, thus contributing to insecurity and social disturbance in the region. In September 2013 the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) identified the ivory trade, along with human smuggling, heroin and piracy, as one of the top four threats in the region. UNODC has stated that the decimation of the elephant population in East Africa could have devastating social effects. They note that its loss could seriously undermine local tourism, a key source of revenue for many of the countries of the region.

1. 1 Rational for HAWEN Establishment

The illegal trade in wildlife represents a major threat to the survival of many endangered species in Africa. Recent years have seen wildlife poaching skyrocket – particularly for ivory and rhino. In 2011, between 25,000-50,000 elephants were killed for their ivory and there were 17 large-scale seizures of 800 kg of ivory or more – the highest in 23 years. Other species, which are particularly targeted by the international illegal trade in wildlife, include big cats for their pelts and various mammals including a variety of great ape species for bushmeat.

Illegal wildlife trafficking has grown to become a massive global industry. Various organisations, including Europol, estimate that the trade is worth at least US$19 billion per year and rank illegal wildlife trade, including timber and fisheries, as the fourth largest global illegal activity, ahead of oil, art, gold, human organs, small arms, and diamonds.

The illegal ivory trade in particular has more than doubled worldwide since 2007 and is now over three times larger than it was in 1998, its highest level in two decades, with ivory fetching up to US$2,205 a kilogram on the streets of Beijing. Poaching is also bringing rhinoceros to the edge of extinction, with the price of rhino horn on the black market currently at around US$66,139 per kilogram – more than the value of gold and platinum.

In 2013 authorities in Malaysia made a seizure of six tons of ivory, representing the ivory of perhaps 600 elephants (assuming 1.8 tusks per elephant and an average of 5.5 kg per tusk), equivalent to one-quarter of the known elephant population of Uganda. Most countries in Eastern Africa can claim fewer than 1000 elephants. This level of demand could quickly destroy some national populations. (UNODC 2013)

Eastern Africa has few rhinos – just over 1,000 based on the latest count – due to a long history of aggressive poaching. As a result, while less rhinos are poached today than elephants (an estimated 25 incidents in 2011), its impact could be even greater. Most rhino poaching is conducted by organized gangs looking to fill an order, and so occurs in waves. Stronger protection measures in the south could prompt poaching gangs to focus on Eastern Africa, with potentially devastating effects to the remaining population. (UNODC 2013)