a host with a mission

This year’s World Environment Day celebrations are hosted by Angola, a country seeking to restore its elephant herds, conserve Africa’s biodiversity-rich wildlife, and safeguard the environment as it continues to rebuild after more than a quarter-century of civil war. The theme for WED 2016 is the fight against the illegal trade in wildlife.

Angola is delighted to host World Environment Day, which will focus on an issue close to our hearts.

Angolan Environment Minister Maria de Fatima Jardim

The illegal wildlife trade, particularly the trade in ivory and rhino horn, is a major problem across our continent. By hosting this day of celebration and awareness-raising, we aim to send a clear message that such practices will soon be eradicated.

Angola boasts environmental assets including pristine coastline as well as forests and grasslands comparable to those that draw many tourists to neighbours Namibia and Zambia.

The country’s wildlife includes lions, great apes and giant sable antelope, a critically endangered species found only in Angola and listed as critically endangered by the International Union of Conservation of Nature. The Great Elephant Census is expected to release the results of its Angola survey in the coming months. Bird life includes African Grey Parrots, whose decline across the continent is widely blamed on their illegal harvesting for the pet trade

The government recently launched a string of initiatives to enhance conservation and stiffen law enforcement. To demonstrate its commitment to curb elephant poaching, Angola last year submitted a National Ivory Action Plan as part of its membership of CITES, the UNEP-hosted international convention designed to prevent trade in wild animals and plants from threatening their survival. The plan includes stiff penalties for poaching and ivory trafficking and stronger policing, including more training for wildlife rangers and the posting of a wildlife crime unit to the international airport in the capital, Luanda.

In March, officials presented a draft law banning the sale of ivory, a move that would end the open sale of ivory artefacts at Luanda’s bustling Benfica market. Angola also is discussing the establishment of several vast trans-frontier conservation areas, including one that would include the wildlife-rich Okavango delta in Botswana, and another that incorporates Namibia’s wild Skeleton Coast.

Angola is embracing this ambitious agenda – and the high-profile role as host of WED – even as it continues to rebuild after a long and damaging civil war that only ended in 2002. The country can look to other African countries, especially safari destinations, and the growing revenues they earn from ecotourism to appreciate the value of safeguarding the environment and protecting iconic species from illegal poaching and trafficking.

With organized crime increasingly involved in the trade, experts also warn that trafficking also threatens to heighten corruption and insecurity in source countries.