UK government has announced funding for conservation projects to protect species including tigers, orangutans, pangolins, and rosewood trees. They will be better protected under a range of projects funded by the government this year aimed at tackling the damaging illegal wildlife trade. Seventeen conservation projects across the globe will receive over £7 million from the UK’s flagship Illegal Wildlife Trade Challenge Fund.
The illegal wildlife trade, currently estimated to be worth up to £17 billion globally per year is a serious organized crime that threatens species with extinction, fuels corruption, deprives some of the world’s poorest communities of sustainable livelihoods, and degrades ecosystems ability to store carbon.
The UK Government’s Illegal Wildlife Trade Challenge Fund provides essential support to projects around the world in tackling the illegal wildlife trade for the benefit of wildlife, nature, local communities and economies, and global security.
The funding granted by the UK government under the fund this year will be vital to bending the curve on biodiversity loss and poverty alleviation around the world. There are eight projects in Asia, six in Africa, and three in South America.
Independent Chair of the Illegal Wildlife Trade Advisory Group John Scanlon said, “The illegal wildlife trade has a devastating impact on biodiversity, entire ecosystems and their ability to sequester carbon, security, local communities, and national economies, posing a serious risk to human and animal health.”
The projects set to receive funding under Round 7 include to:
- Combat pangolin trafficking in the Philippines– This project will protect two important Critically Endangered pangolin populations by working with local communities to support them manage their natural resources, explicitly linking pangolin conservation to social benefits and disincentivizing poaching through strengthened enforcement. (Zoological Society of London). Pangolins are the most trafficked mammal on the planet. Between 2014 and 2018, seizures of pangolin scales increased tenfold and it is now estimated that 1 million pangolins have been trafficked in the last 10 years.
- Protect tigers in Nepal by increasing community stewardship– This project will work in the Banke-Bardia complex – home to the second largest population of endangered Royal Bengal Tigers in Nepal – to build capacity in park rangers, strengthen wildlife enforcement and raise awareness of the importance of tigers among local communities. (National Trust for Nature Conservation). Big cats are also threatened by poaching with their body parts often used for luxury home décor and taxidermy purposes, while their bones are used in traditional Chinese medicine. Seizures of tiger products have risen in recent years, as has traffickers’ interest in other big cat parts that can be used as substitutes for these products.
- Tackle the illegal wildlife trade in Malawi by supporting judicial processes– The project will conduct courtroom monitoring, private prosecutions, support open judicial dialogue, and case law reviews. This work will drive transparency in judicial processes, reduce corruption and deliver on-the-job mentoring, increasing protection for rhinos, pangolins, and rosewood timber. (Lilongwe Wildlife Trust)
- Tackle criminal networks involved in the illegal wildlife trade of rosewood timber, bears, and macaws in Bolivia and Peru– This project will disrupt illegal wildlife trade networks in Bolivia and Peru by embedding financial investigation and asset recovery into illegal wildlife trade enforcement practice, building on the successful application of asset recovery techniques to combat organized crime and corruption in Latin America, benefitting people, animals, and plants. (Basel Institute on Governance)
- Protect orangutans and elephants in Indonesia – Sumatran orangutans and elephants are extremely vulnerable to illegal wildlife trade as demand for these species is high. This project will enhance illegal wildlife trade legislation and enforcement capacity through on-the-ground protection and support community-led wildlife protection. (PanEco)
The trade-in of illegally logged timber undermines the effective management of forest resources and thereby contributes to deforestation. Demand for tropical hardwood timber has grown significantly in the past two decades, with illegal African rosewood entering some legal supply chains, such as the international wood furniture trade.
International Environment Minister Lord Goldsmith said: ”The illegal wildlife trade destroys wildlife, threatens species, and fuels corruption. Iconic species including tigers, orangutans, and elephants are all moving closer towards extinction and it is important that we do everything we can to reverse this decline”.
This year the government is committing more money than ever before under the Illegal Wildlife Trade Challenge Fund to combat this terrible trade and these vital projects will help to ensure that these species are protected for generations to come.
The Illegal Wildlife Trade Challenge Fund ensures support for vital local efforts to protect some of the world’s most endangered species of wild animals and plants. This well-targeted funding plays a unique and critically important role in the global funding landscape and will support innovative projects that will be a catalyst for sustainable change to help end wildlife crime.
Successful Round 7 applicant and ZSL’s pangolin Technical Specialist Carly Waterman said, “Pangolins are the world’s most trafficked wild mammals, with one snatched from the wild every five minutes. Philippine pangolin populations are estimated to have declined by more than 80 percent in the recent past decade due to hunting and poaching for their meat and scales.”
It is important that local communities benefit from, and are empowered to protect threatened wildlife. The project will develop a model for community-led pangolin conservation that can be replicated throughout the species’ range, creating incentives for protecting pangolins, strengthening disincentives for poaching, and empowering local communities to manage their natural resources.
The UK is investing over £46m between 2014 and 2022 to combat illegal trade by reducing the demand for illegal wildlife trade products, strengthening enforcement, ensuring effective legal frameworks, and developing sustainable livelihoods. This latest boost in funding builds upon previous successful Challenge Fund projects which to date have committed over £34 million to 109 projects in over 50 countries since the Fund’s establishment in 2014.
The announcement also marks the launch of Round 8 of Illegal Wildlife Trade Challenge Fund funding for projects working to tackle illegal wildlife trade in sub–Saharan Africa, East and Southeast Asia, and Latin America. Projects which aim to reduce demand for illegal wildlife trade products are strongly encouraged to apply, however, all projects which aim to combat the illegal wildlife trade will be eligible.
The UK Government is committed to supporting conservation globally and follows our plan to improve standards both domestically and overseas as set out in our Action Plan for Animal Welfare.