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International Day for Biodiversity: it is time to act

Building on the results of COP15 with the adoption of the Kunming-Montreal Global Biodiversity Framework, this year’s International Day for Biological Diversity’s theme is: “From Agreement to Action: Build Back Biodiversity”.

Indeed, now that an agreement is in place, it is time to act and implement it. The Convention of Biological Diversity (CBD) is encouraging all its members and stakeholders to launch their actions to implement the Global Biodiversity Framework. And, moving forward, it is proposing that all future themes of the International Day for Biological Diversity should be attached and built on COP messages.

Building on the EU Presidency: Czechia raises awareness to the illegal trade of endangered species

In this regard, the Czech Ministry of the Environment together with the Nature Conservation Agency of the Czech Republic decided to open an outdoor exhibition called Faces of CITES (referred to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora) in Prague Zoo. The travelling exhibit, open until 14 June, introduces the general public to the issue of trade in endangered species of animals and plants protected by the international CITES convention.

“Right after the destruction of the natural habitats of animals and plants, activities such as collecting, hunting and fishing are the destructive engine of the global loss of species diversity,” commented Environment Minister Petr Hladík, at the exhibition’s opening. “On top of this, there is the illegal trade in endangered species of plants and animals or products made from their body parts, such as ivory or rhino horn.”

He recalled that wildlife crime is the fourth most profitable illegal business, along with the illicit trade in tropical timber, with an estimated volume of hundreds of billions of Czech crowns per year.

Indeed, according to the Global Assessment Report of Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services issued by the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES), an average of around 25 per cent of species in assessed animal and plant groups are threatened, suggesting that around 1 million species already face extinction, many within decades, unless action is taken to reduce the intensity of drivers of biodiversity loss. Without such action, there will be a further acceleration in the global rate of species extinction, which is already at least tens to hundreds of times higher than it has averaged over the past 10 million years. 

“Smuggling live animals and plants or products means tax evasion, money laundering and, above all, animal cruelty,” the Minister continued. “Wildlife crime also endangers people and nature by introducing infectious diseases, parasites or invasive non-native species.”

The international wildlife trade is a large commercial business using live animals and plants, but it is also interested in their products, from food and medicines to leather goods and exotic tourist souvenirs. These activities also have a significant impact on the Czech Republic, thanks to its strongly rooted tradition of breeding, especially of reptiles and birds, or the cultivation, for example of cacti. Globally, for example, Czechia is one of the five countries that export the smallest species of bred parrots.

The Ministry of Environment reported that it issues around 1,300 CITES permits each year to import or export specimens of endangered species. There are more than 100,000 registered tortoises in the Czech Republic, with the Hermann’s, marginated and Greek tortoises being among the most represented. A number of species kept in the Czech Republic that are protected by CITES and used for trade are also among protected species, such as raptors and owls. 

“Unfortunately, the Czech Republic has not been able to avoid major cases of illegal trade in specimens of endangered species, such as smuggling of rare parrots, tigers, rhino horns, ivory and products or parts thereof. The active approach of the authorities concerned in dealing with these cases clearly shows that the topic of wildlife crime is also an important issue for our country,” emphasised Petr Bejček, Director of the Czech Environmental Inspectorate, which is the main CITES control body in the Czech Republic.

The Ministry of the Environment together with the Ministry of the Interior is now preparing a revision of the Action Plan to ensure that this type of crime can be combated as effectively as possible in the future and that it receives the attention of the government and the relevant control and enforcement authorities. The Ministry of the Environment reaped successes in the international field of CITES during the EU Presidency last year, when it led negotiations on behalf of the Union at the 19th Conference of the Parties to the CITES. Also thanks to the Czech Presidency, it was possible to prevent the resumption of trade in ivory or rhino horn and to increase protection for a number of species.

Thus, the Ministry is raising awareness of the illegal trade in endangered species through support for a number of projects, such as the rhino protection campaign linked to the symbolic burning of confiscated rhino horns at Dvůr Králové Zoo in 2014, the UNEP photography exhibition to promote the protection of endangered species Wild for Life at Václav Havel Airport or the Faces of CITES exhibition recently inaugurated at Prague Zoo. 

Long-term goals

This 2023 Day of Biodiversity is just another step towards our more ambitious goals for 2050.

In particular, the Kunming-Montreal Global Biodiversity Framework has four long-term goals for 2050: first, the integrity, connectivity and resilience of all ecosystems must be maintained, enhanced, or restored, substantially increasing the area of natural ecosystems by 2050. Second, biodiversity must be sustainably used and managed and nature’s contributions to people, including ecosystem functions and services, must be valued, maintained and enhanced. Third, the monetary and non-monetary benefits from the utilisation of genetic resources and digital sequence information on genetic resources and traditional knowledge associated with genetic resources must be shared fairly and equitably.

Finally, adequate means of implementation, including financial resources, capacity-building, technical and scientific cooperation and access to and transfer of technology to fully implement the framework must be secured and equitably accessible to all Parties, especially developing countries, progressively closing the biodiversity finance gap of 700 billion US dollars per year.

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