WCO celebrates World Wildlife Day in support of forests and their contribution to livelihoods

02 March 2021

On 3 March, the World Customs Organization (WCO) joins the international community in celebrating the United Nations’ (UN) World Wildlife Day, to draw attention to the essential role that biodiversity plays in sustaining our planet and its people. On this occasion, the WCO reiterates its pledge to protect the world’s fauna and flora, and its continuing support to its partner, the Secretariat of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES).

The theme of World Wildlife Day 2021 is “Forest and Livelihoods: Sustaining People and Planet,” highlighting the role of forests and their ecosystems in sustaining the livelihoods of millions of people around the world. The UN estimates that between 200 and 350 million people globally live within or near forests, relying on its resources for their livelihoods, food, shelter, energy and medicines. Protecting these resources is therefore crucial.

Customs administrations play a key role in ensuring that wildlife and forestry products are preserved and traded legally and sustainably, thanks to vigilant controls at borders and efficient risk profiling techniques, in compliance with legislations and procedures.

“Ensuring the sustainability of natural resources through legal trade is a duty that the international Customs community is committed to honour,” said WCO Secretary General Dr. Kunio Mikuriya. “Despite restrictive measures in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic, Customs across the world rose to the challenge and maintained their efforts in disrupting the illegal trade in wildlife and forestry products, to continue to protect both communities and the environment.”

Forests have been particularly vulnerable to poaching and illegal logging since the start of the pandemic. However, Customs are constantly stepping up their efforts in combatting wildlife and forestry crime. Because Customs cannot stop these crimes alone, it forges partnerships and strengthens collaboration between administrations, government agencies and other actors along the supply chain in order to win this fight.

The WCO partners with the CITES Secretariat, INTERPOL, the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), and the World Bank to form the International Consortium on Combating Wildlife Crime (ICCWC). This powerful partnership enables a worldwide impact, as shown by Operation Thunder 2020, a global enforcement operation targeting illegal wildlife trade, conducted in September and October 2020, co-led by the WCO and INTERPOL with the support of the CITES Secretariat. This Operation was a major success, with over 2,000 seizures and close to 700 suspects identified. The WCO activities conducted under the ICCWC Programme are generously funded by the European Union and the United Kingdom.

The WCO also supports its Members to combat illegal wildlife trade through the WCO INAMA, generously funded by the U.S. Department of State. This Project provides comprehensive training and support to strengthen the CITES enforcement capacities of beneficiary Customs administrations in Africa, Asia and South America, whilst enhancing international and inter-agency cooperation globally.

These efforts are essential to protect both human well-being and the long-term conservation of forests and their ecosystems. The WCO gathers with the Customs community and all its partners to call for the end of illegal wildlife and forestry trade, and to preserve a healthy planet and flourishing communities.