The Wildlife Conservation Society WCS Belize has finalized a ten-page report on the illegal wildlife trade in Belize. WCS is reporting that Belize has lost millions of dollars annually due to the illegal trade of wildlife. The report reveals that over the period 2012 to 2018 Belize lost more than sixty-one million dollars on the illegal trade of wildlife such as conch, lobster, sharks, parrots, game species, and timber. Thirty-six million dollars was lost to the illegal trade of timber which includes rosewood, mahogany, and cedar, and more than twenty-two million dollars was lost due to high demand in local and international markets. While the figures are staggering, they do not truly represent the real value of monies loss. That’s because WCS experienced data limitation. Terrestrial Coordinator Kamille Pennil says that the full extent of the illegal trade is not known as a great deal goes undetected. She says that the market value of some of the species is difficult to determine and that the data collected by regulatory agencies are either unavailable or incomplete. The objective of the report and its findings, Pennil says, is to highlight that the illegal trade of wildlife continues to occur.

Kamille Pennil, Terrestrial Coordinator, W.C.S. Belize

“The point of this report is for us to show the country that the illegal trade of wildlife is happening, it is present and it is costing us. Obviously, poaching and extraction timber illegal is harms wildlife, it decreases biodiversity but a lot of people aren’t realizing is that it also cost us millions of dollars. We rely heavily on wildlife for trade but also of course for consumption and what we have to realize is that if this trade is not addressed, if it is not tackled we will continue to lose more money. But also we will affect our economy. Essentially we rely on the export of conch and lobster, those are huge earners for the country. If we keep allowing people to harvest these species illegally then we will lose from the legal trade as well. So I feel like this report is connecting those two things, just highlighting. We depend on wildlife. Biodiversity is important and losing it means that we are losing biodiversity but we are also losing money.”

W.C.S. Belize Makes Policy Recommendations to Address Illegal Trade of Wildlife

The Wildlife Conservation Society Belize has made several policy recommendations. W.C.S is recommending an amendment of all wildlife focused legislation to include the term ‘Illegal Wildlife Trade.” The environmental group is also seeking the enactment of the national Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) to strengthen national implementation of the Convention.

Kamille Pennil, Terrestrial Coordinator, W.C.S. Belize

“This convention regulates the trade of endangered species and it ensures that it is done sustainably. Belize is signed on to it but it is important to us for us to then have our national legislation that supports the convention and supports atonal implementation. Currently Belize does have a draft national legislation. I think it was tabled to Cabinet back in September if I am not mistaken but it has not been enacted. So that is one of the first things that we need to address this trade is to ensure that we have that enacted. But we also need to do other things like establish a consistent and long term monitoring so we are capturing data on this trade and we can definitely do a better on estimating what this trade is costing the country. Of course another big one is improving enforcement. I know we talk about this all the time. We have very limited human resources so we really have to use our resources strategically and one good way of doing this is implementing SMART tool. It is an enforcement technology. It allows us to collect enforcement data and based on data you are able to determine where you should be directing your resources.”

Channel 5