Latest data indicates that around 22,000 elephants were illegally killed across Africa in 2012 alone. The number of rhinos killed has equally been soaring in recent years. Since 2000, the large-scale ivory shipments have steadily grown in terms of the number of such transports and the quantity of ivory illegally traded. 2013 already represents a 20% increase over the previous peak year in 2011. These developments could soon lead to local extinctions of species such as elephants or rhinos if the present killing rates continue.
Poaching and illicit wildlife trafficking through criminal networks also represent a growing challenge to peace and security, rule of law, and economic development of affected countries, mainly in Africa. In addition, it fuels arms proliferation. Given the global dimension of the trade in animal products such as ivory and the international nature of trafficking cartels, the United Nations provides the natural forum to address the problems and to lead respective efforts.
Against this background, Germany has been actively conducting briefings and discussions in New York including a High-Level Panel Discussion during the 68th General Assembly chaired by the German Foreign Miniser and the President of Gabon. These meetings, along with high-level summits in Gaborone and Paris, have contributed to growing international recognition of the severity of the issue at the highest political levels and an understanding that concerted action from the international community is now critical.
On December 12, 2013 Germany together with Gabon chaired the first meeting of a Group of Friends on Poaching and Illicit Wildlife Trafficking. The Group, comprising member states from all regional groups, wants to raise more awareness for this issue, identify needs for action and elaborate a coherent agenda within the United Nations on poaching and illegal wildlife trafficking.