According to a WWF report, almost half of the UNESCO world heritage sites are threatened by wildlife crimes which include poaching, illegal fishing, logging and trafficking of rare species. These crimes are committed in 45% of natural World Heritage sites.
The report said that endangered species are poached in around 43 world heritage sites, and illegal logging of high-value timber was common at 26 sites. It added that illegal fishing is also a problem in 18 of the world’s 39 marine and coastal world heritage sites.
The UNESCO World Heritage Sites are home to many critically endangered species and for some such as the Javan Rhinos, certain parks or areas in these sites are their last refuge.
The Okavango Delta World Heritage site in Botswana for example is of great significance for the preservation of almost a third of the remaining African elephants. These important natural habitats are inextricably linked to local economy and wildlife preservation. The disappearance of plants and rare species could result in a drop in tourism which would be fatal to some local communities.
Wildlife crimes endanger not only the local economy, but have also an harmful impact on the planet as a whole. Illegal deforestation as the result of exploitation of rare timber, for example, will result in a rise in carbon emissions. The illegal trade also threatens locals’ livelihood.
Representatives of WWF said that not enough was being done to protect these sites. In Madagascar, for instance, corruption and a lack of action on the government’s part were some of the main reasons why illegal deforestation is not stopped.
One way to tackle this problem would be a stronger co-operation of the convention on international trade in endangered species (Cites) and the world heritage convention, Chris Gee, the head of campaigns at WWF-UK said.
Inger Andersen, the director general of the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), said that it was a “[…] global challenge that can only be tackled through collective, international action.”