The Jubilee 60th General Assembly of the International Council for Game and Wildlife Conservation (CIC) took place in the triangle of the Czech Republic, Slovakia and Hungary from the 26th – 30th April 2013. Renowned world experts gathered to discuss the topic of wildlife management under the motto; Hunting: Conserving Wildlife – Key to Global Cultural Heritage.

Following CIC Council meetings in Prague and Bratislava, the core events took place in Budapest, Hungary. The Opening Ceremony was honoured by the presence of many distinguished guests and a series of prestigious keynote speakers, including Reinhold Messner, mountaineer, adventurer and explorer together with the Namibian John Kenena Kasaona. Both gave fascinating insights into the role of humans in nature. In a world where humans are becoming increasingly disconnected from nature, one of the most striking reminders of the importance of hunting in wildlife management was the enthusiastically applauded statement from Jon Hutton, Executive Director of UNEP-WCMC: "Hunting is not part of conservation; it is conservation”. Hunting is a decisive wildlife conservation tool in today’s managed environment! H.E. the Minister of Environment of Namibia, honourable guest of the assembly announced that Namibia was in the process to join the CIC as a State member.

The CIC is hugely grateful for the video message of Dr. Braulio Ferreira de Souza Dias, Executive Secretary of the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD). It served to further highlight the importance of the sustainable use of wildlife in the conservation biological diversity and preservation of rural livelihoods. At the same time it acknowledged the leading role which the CIC is playing in actively achieving this objective, in close collaboration with the CBD. The Collaborative Partnership on Sustainable Wildlife Management (CPW), a concept born from the CIC and in which the CIC, CBD and 10 other partner organisations are collaborating on the subject of wildlife management is just one excellent example of this.

Given the motto of the General Assembly it was most appropriate that the Division meetings started with that of the CIC Culture Division. The message from the CIC Culture Division discussions was clear: hunting is an intangible part of human culture! The meeting sounded the beginning of a certainly lengthy, but hopefully rewarding process towards the recognition of hunting as a global cultural heritage.

Interesting new evidence is showing that the traditional harvesting of strong trophy males can lead to a degradation of genetic make-up of populations. Data obtained from hunting bag statistics, including trophies should be analysed, but also linked to other resource data e.g. from forest management. Detecting and understanding trends is essential for successfully adapting wildlife management schemes to a changing environment.

During an interesting session on trans-boundary cooperation in wildlife management a need to further develop the so-called “fly-way ideology” was expressed (any conservation action on migratory birds needs to be validated for the entire potential fly-way). 

One of today’s greatest conservation challenges is the return of large carnivores to the highly fragmented and urbanised landscapes, especially in Europe. There was a general consensus that these magnificent animals are essential elements of a healthy and balanced ecosystem. Though large carnivores are not migratory species, their home range and population size also requires international and cross-border cooperation, and not only amongst scientists and hunters, but especially amongst responsible politicians. It was highlighted that whereas Europe is trying to manage increasing populations, in Africa the issue is about how to mitigate human-wildlife conflicts with decreasing populations. Concerns were raised about non-range countries trying to influence the policies of range countries. Participants urged that locals be empowered to deal with their large carnivore management issues. Experience clearly shows that benefit sharing of income from sustainable hunting provides the incentives for local people to motivate and tolerate possibly life-threatening large carnivores in their neighbourhood.

Another follow-up from the previous General Assembly was the presentation by Metsähallitus (Finnish State Forestry Enterprise) on the subject of the economics of hunting on state-owned lands in Finland. This was greeted with a great deal of interest from participants and seen as a topic which should be examined further and highlighted again at future General Assemblies. The objective of the future could be a CIC library with data on the economics of hunting. Already during the opening of the General Assembly, the announcement was made that the CIC wishes to establish a wildlife management reference library at its Headquarters in Budapest, thus contributing one more building block to a possible future Global Wildlife Centre of Excellence in Hungary.

Another groundbreaking event was a first meeting between the CIC and the Environmental Crime Programme of Interpol. The meeting resulted in the agreement to jointly map possible areas of collaboration between the CIC and Interpol in order to work towards a Memorandum of Understanding between the two organizations. A further meeting with representatives of the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations (FAO) confirmed the intent of both CIC and FAO to collaborate further, beyond the joint-work which has already been done.

Strong support was shown for the re-establishment of an African-Eurasian Waterbird Agreement (AEWA) working platform within the CIC. Together with this revival came a discussion with renowned experts on issues related to lead-free ammunition, a topic which is of great interest to the CIC.

As a further result of the 60th CIC General Assembly, two important recommendations were passed by the CIC. The first concerned Age-Based Lion Hunting, and the second the Trade in Rhino Horn. Both topics are of high importance for wildlife conservation internationally and in line with the sustainable use principles and scientifically based management of wildlife, which the CIC advocates.

The CIC extends its deep appreciation to Slovakia, the Czech Republic and Hungary for being such excellent hosts to these hugely successful events. The important support, especially of the Hungarian Government, was essential in making the 60th General Assembly a success. Wildlife truly knows no borders!

T. Marghescu, K. Hecker and M. Ryan are respectively CEO Director General, Division Coordinator and Assistant Division Coordinator at CIC.