CITES Master’s Program and Documentary Rollout

CITES Master’s Program and Documentary Rollout
January 19, 2018 3:12 pm News

Since the beginning of life on Earth, wild species of plants and animals have naturally undergone extinction through a centuries-long process called natural selection. Rapid human growth and development, however, has exacerbated this process and created an unprecedented demand for wildlife products that pushes species to the brink of extinction. Species like the pangolin and the African elephant are threatened by the illegal trade in wildlife—a market so valuable it closely trails narcotics, weapons, and human trafficking.

Altogether banning the trade of wildlife is an unrealistic goal; humans depend on other species directly and indirectly for their survival. Consequently, species in need of special protection require formal regulation. The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) is an organization developed to provide this regulation across countries. A global agreement between nations, CITES regulates the international trade of wild plants and animals in an effort to sustain their populations. Although signed in good faith, this agreement has its set of challenges regarding implementation on the national level. Some national governments and institutions in West Africa face the problem of understanding CITES in full and enforcing its laws locally. This prompted the need to train individuals from these countries who will in turn work with the governments,institutions, and communities in their respective countries towards improving wildlife enforcement across West Africa.

To build capacities for wildlife enforcement in West Africa, the United States Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS), in partnership with USAID, sponsored individuals from West Africa to complete a Masters’ Program at the University of Andalucía in Spain. Prior to this initiative, the only West African country to be represented in this program was Nigeria. This year, 11 people from Burkina Faso, Benin, Cote d’Ivoire, Ghana, Guinea, Niger, Nigeria, Senegal, Sierra Leone, The Gambia and Togo successfully completed the program and began to apply their knowledge shortly after graduating. One student from Senegal had his thesis used as justification for the protection of the Pterocarpus trees under the CITES Appendix 2. Thomas Kossi Agbodji from Togo has also contributed to the drafting of a national ivory plan for his country which has been adopted by the government and submitted to CITES as part of its compliance mechanism.
WA BiCC continues to follow their progress after the Masters’ Program and has recently rolled out the 2nd installment of a 3-part documentary on students who have participated. The program itself is expanding to train more people across West Africa and ensure adequate human resources for wildlife enforcement in the region.

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