Crime threatening World Heritage sites

Posted: Tuesday, April 18, 2017. 3:11 p.m. CST.

By BBN Staff: Crime is threatening the existence of nearly half the world’s designated Heritage sites including Belize’s Barrier Reef reserve system, according to the World Wildlife Federation (WWF).

The WWF, in its latest report, noted that almost half of the world’s 200 designated world heritage sites (45 percent) are plagued by wildlife criminals. The WWF says the problem is so far reaching it could lead to the extinction of critically endangered species including javan rhinos and wild tigers.

Many of the parks in the study are home to critically endangered creatures – including Ujung National Park in Indonesia, which is the last stand for around 60 javan rhinos. The Okavango Delta World Heritage site in Botswana is a key location for elephants in the north of the country, which make up almost a third of all remaining African elephants.

“Of course there’s the economic value of these sites, but these are special places, they give you a lump in your throat when you see them and if we really want to cherish these we all have to step up,” Dr. Colman O’Criodain from the WWF said.

Between 1970 and 2012 global wildlife populations have declined by almost 60 percent on average. The illegal trade in species is said to be worth around US $19 billion a year, with the unlicensed timber trade said to be responsible for up to 90 percent of deforestation in major tropical countries. Over a two year period, the illegal rosewood trade in Madagascar has cost locals up to US $200 million in lost income.

The report points out that the illegal trade in species at natural heritage sites is having a significant impact on people’s livelihoods as the disappearance of rare animals and plants can deter tourists. In Belize, for example, more than half of the entire population are supported by income generated through reef tourism and fisheries, the report noted.

Current approaches to stemming illegal trade are just not working, the study concludes. It suggests that rapidly increased co-operation between CITES and the World Heritage Convention could help turn the tide.

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