18 September, 2014
Bronte Hotel, HARARE
The Secretary For Environment And Water and Climate,
The United Nations Environmental Program (UNEP) and the CITES Secretariat represented by the MIKE Coordinator, Julian Blanc,
The European Union Represented by Mr. Severin Mellac
The Director General, Parks and Wildlife Management Authority, Mr Edison Chidziya
Director General and Heads of Wildlife Authorities from Southern and Eastern Africa
Invited Guests, Technical Experts, Ladies and Gentlemen
I would like to begin by welcoming you all to Zimbabwe’ capital city Harare.
It is indeed an honour and privilege for Zimbabwe to host this meeting to launch the new MIKES Project for Southern and Eastern Africa and the MIKE Regional Steering Committee for Southern Africa.
The new project, MIKES, Minimizing of the Illegal Killing of Elephants and other Endangered Species Project, is building on the successful Monitoring Illegal Killing of Elephants (MIKE PROGRAM) that was implemented following a resolution adopted at CITES CoP10 in 1997 in Harare. The MIKE Program, which we all here present, as African elephant range states has enabled us to track and monitor levels and trends of elephant poaching. This project has to date been largely implemented through support from European Commission. The government of Zimbabwe is one of the Parties that recommended the extension of the MIKE Program, and is gratefully to note that these recommendations were considered and today we will be witnessing the launch of a new chapter in the project.
The new MIKES project will have an expanded focus that will include other flagship species such as rhinos in Africa and Assia and marine turtles in the Caribbean and PARCIFIC REGION. This is a welcome development as a step forward towards a holistic approach and cost effectiveness in our efforts to monitor the conservation status of endangered species.
Ladies and Gentlemen, Wildlife conservation and economic development are inextricably inter-related. The increasing trend in Wildlife poaching is a growing global threat not only to conservation but critically also to our national economics as well as the security of our countries.
The MIKE Program is generating data on the illegal killing of both African and Asian elephants. Through this program, records are showing a general increase in the level of elephant poaching across Africa although at certain sites, a decline in illegal killing has been noted. This development calls for argent action to be taken on order to arrest the trend. We welcome the new focus of the MIKES Project aimed at minimizing the impact of poaching through efforts to strengthen the capacity and capability of law enforcement agencies to combat poaching at site and national levels.
The need for reliable scientific baseline information on status and threats to elephants, rhinos and other flagship wildlife species for management and policy decision at national and international level cannot be overemphasized. Any measures that will enhance the capacity of our wildlife monitoring systems and tools are welcome. Long term success in wildlife conservation depends on current efforts, therefore the new MIKES Project Strategy of reinforcing support for law enforcement capacity through training, technical and operational assistance is applauded as a very pragmatic approach.
Ladies and gentlemen, whilst we acknowledge current efforts to curb poaching and illegal wildlife trafficking, we need to be cognizant the dynamic and complex nature of the issues related to the illegal wildlife trade chains from the source, transit up to the consumer markets. Issue related to addressing local community concerns are of critical importance in curbing the illegal wildlife trade. Community based initiatives therefore need to be fully supported. We cannot afford to sit on our laurels thinking we have addressed the issues as more work still needs to be done. The problems associated with illegal killing of endangered wildlife species are global in nature involving sophisticated syndicates therefore require regional and international collaboration.
In conclusion, Ladies and Gentlemen, the Government of Zimbabwe welcomes the launch of the MIKES Project and sees a key role for Local communities, Private sector, Development Partners, Regional and International Community in working together to minimize the killing of endangered species. Through this project, our partnership will become stronger. We also hope and believe that considerable social and economic benefits can accrue to local communities through creation of opportunities for sustainable livelihoods. The Government of Zimbabwe remains committed to curbing poaching, reducing trafficking and illegal wildlife trade and improved wildlife conservation for the benefit of current and future generations.
I would like to take this opportunity to express my sincere gratitude to UNEP and CITES Secretariat for the technical assistance and the European Union for funding the project. I wish you successful deliberations in the workshop and success in the implementation of the MIKES Project.
I also extend a warm welcome to all the delegates to visit our National Parks and experience the varied forms of flora and fauna, untamed wilderness and rewarding wildlife tourism experiences that Zimbabwe offers.
I thank you!