Thirty participants representing a wide range of stakeholders from six countries in Central and West Africa attended a Regional Seminar on Wildlife Crime – Case Law Collection and Analysis in Central Africa.
The IUCN Environmental Law Centre (ELC), together with national experts, held a seminar in Yaoundé, Cameroon, from 26-27 September 2019, gathering representatives from the Central African region to introduce WILDLEX and the preliminary findings of a case law analysis in Cameroon, in order to identify how legal information sharing can help tackle wildlife crime in the region.
Wildlife crime is a growing threat for biodiversity worldwide. In the last decade, 8,889 African rhinos have been poached. In addition, it is estimated that between 10,000 and 15,000 African Elephants are killed by poachers each year. Ivory and rhino horns are highly valued with the price of a rhino horn estimated to be approximately $20,000. This trade is run by organised crime channelling the products from Africa to Asia. This complex international criminal activity generates approximately $23 billion per year making it the 4th most profitable crime.
In light of the above, litigation is key to address this growing issue and safeguard biodiversity. In this context, IUCN ELC, supported by GIZ, developed an online information service, WILDLEX, to assist legal practitioners as well as the Courts by offering unlimited access to judicial precedents in the country, the region as well as the world at large. . The WILDLEX database aims at providing legal information on wildlife crime. ELC is working with experts and universities to collect court decisions rendered in the context of wildlife crime and include them in the database. The database, being in its early stages, currently focuses on Tanzania and Cameroon but aims at spreading by collecting cases in as many countries as possible. Complimentary an extended analysis of Tanzanian cases has been published, based on 269 cases, in order to identify legislation gaps and potential solutions.
A preliminary collection of 100 cases was conducted in Cameroon and the findings of this analysis were presented during the seminar. The participants coming from a wide range of stakeholders and representing 5 Central African countries and 1 from West Africa, could then exchange on the legal gaps identified and the potential ways forward to trigger legal cooperation in the region. They could also share their perspectives on how WILDLEX could be improved in order to facilitate and promote its use by legal practitioners and more specifically by the judiciary. Participants demonstrated an active commitment to tackle this issue impoverishing the countries of economic potential, natural resources and cultural roots. They emphasized the importance of transnational cooperation and the need for improvement of the legal and judicial framework to preserve the endangered species threatened by poaching. As a result, they welcomed the WILDLEX initiative and expressed the will to further contribute to its successful implementation.
IUCN ELC, supported by national legal experts, will continue the collection and analysis of case law in Cameroon and will hold a training of judges and prosecutors next year to present the findings and train them on the use of the WILDLEX tool. In parallel, ELC will collect additional cases from China and several Central Africa countries to get a current overview of the litigation at both levels of supply and demand and provide further assistance to the judiciary.