WCO celebrates World Wildlife Day in support of the recovery of key species for ecosystem restoration

03 March 2022

On 3rd March, the World Customs Organization (WCO) joins the international community in celebrating World Wildlife Day to raise awareness on the conservation status of some of the most critically endangered species of wild fauna and flora, and drive discussions towards imagining and implementing solutions to preserve them. On this occasion, the WCO reiterates its pledge to protect wildlife and its continuing support to its partner organization - the Secretariat of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES).

Following UN’s theme “Recovering key species for ecosystem restoration”, the WCO wishes to draw attention to the “critically endangered” status of over 8,400 wildlife species, with almost 30,000 more considered to be “endangered” or “vulnerable”. The continued loss of species and habitats is severely threatening ecosystems, which in turn threatens all life on Earth. Communities around the world rely on wildlife and biodiversity-based products for their needs and livelihoods. Countries rely on nature for economic growth. Restoring and protecting these resources is a matter of survival at all levels.

Customs play a key role in global efforts to restore and sustain ecosystems by ensuring that wildlife is preserved and traded legally and sustainably, through vigilant controls at borders and efficient risk profiling techniques, in compliance with legislations and procedures.

“Maintaining vigilance in the supply chain and enforcing trade legality is the duty of Customs, and this in turn contributes to the sustainability of natural resources,” said WCO Secretary General Dr. Kunio Mikuriya. “The Customs community is committed to stepping up towards achieving the UN Sustainable Development Goals and pursuing its efforts to disrupt the illegal trade in wildlife and forestry products, thereby contributing to the recovery and preservation of key species and the restoration of our ecosystems,” Dr. Mikuriya added.

In the fight against wildlife crime, Customs forges partnerships and endeavours to strengthen interagency collaboration with a variety of actors along the supply chain.

The WCO partners with the CITES Secretariat, INTERPOL, the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) and the World Bank, acting together as the International Consortium on Combating Wildlife Crime (ICCWC). The worldwide impact of this powerful partnership was demonstrated with Operation Thunder 2021, a global enforcement operation targeting illegal wildlife trade, which was conducted in October 2021 and co-led by the WCO and INTERPOL with the support of the CITES Secretariat. Operation Thunder 2021 was a major success, with over 1,000 seizures made and close to 300 suspects identified. WCO activities conducted under the ICCWC Programme are generously funded by the European Union (INTPA), the United Kingdom (DEFRA) and the United States (DoS).

The WCO also supports its Members in combating illegal wildlife trade through the WCO INAMA Project, generously funded by the United States (DoS). This Project provides comprehensive training and support to strengthen the CITES enforcement capacities of beneficiary Customs administrations in Africa, Asia and South America, while enhancing international and interagency cooperation globally.

World Wildlife Day 2022 highlights the imperative need to reverse the fate of the most critically endangered species, support the restoration of their habitats and ecosystems, and promote their sustainable use by humanity. The WCO calls on its Members to continue playing their role towards achieving this objective and intensify their conservation efforts for the survival of species and the sustainability of the ecosystems they rely on.