Delegates at the ongoing Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) have called for an evidence-based integrated approach in addressing the challenge of data gaps in combating illegal trade in wildlife and meeting sustainable development goals in Africa.
Speaking at the side event hosted by the Lusaka Agreement Task Force (LATF) held on the sidelines of the 19th Conference of Parties to CITES (CITES CoP19), Ministry of Tourism Permanent Secretary, Evans Muhanga, stressed the importance of having an initiative which is anchored on decisions of the Lusaka Agreement Governing Council.
Mr Muhanga said one of the key challenges to effective law enforcement in Africa relates to insufficient official relevant data on the amount of illegal trade, which he said is currently the case, as well as inadequacy in information sharing.
In a statement issued to ZANIS by Ministry of Tourism Public Relations Officer, Sakabilo Kalembwe in Lusaka today, Mr Muhanga however appreciated the progress made by African countries in the development of data infrastructure.
And LATF Director, Edward Phiri, disclosed that the task force is currently implementing an ongoing trans-boundary information sharing system on wildlife crime called the Wildlife Enforcement Monitoring System (WEMS).
Mr Phiri said with support from the Environmental Systems Research Institute (ESRI) Global, WEMS is currently being developed and enhanced to become a strong and secure spatial data infrastructure.
He added that this will support the Lusaka Agreement members in bolstering information sharing on wildlife and forest crime, human wildlife conflicts, zoonotic diseases as well as DNA data from trafficked wildlife specimens.
Mr Phiri further said the event was a culmination of the eighth and seventh Tokyo International Conference on African Development (TICAD8) and (TICAD7) side events, as well as the Pan-African Conference on Strengthening Information Sharing Infrastructure and Governance Frameworks to address Human-Nature Conflicts conference held in Arusha, Tanzania in August 2022, August 2019 and June 2019 respectively.
The members recommended to fast-track the development of a Spatial Data Infrastructure and an Information Centre that will help to pool and analyse data towards addressing the conservation challenges.