France hails "decisive step" against wildlife trafficking

Illegal wildlife trade – Speech by M. Nicolas Hulot, the President’s Special Envoy for the Protection of the Planet

London, 13 February 2014




Ladies and gentlemen,

It’s an honour for me to be among you today.

An honour I owe the French President, who entrusted me with the mission of being his Special Envoy for the Protection of the Planet.

An honour I owe you, Secretary of State; France thanks you for organizing this conference to join forces in this battle against the illegal wildlife trade. The most dangerous thing would be to succumb to an intolerable resignation. Thank you for bringing us all together, and I’m pleased to note our shared determination to act.

It’s an ecological, economic, sovereignty and security challenge. Testimony to this is the tragedy unfolding today in the Central African Republic, where the crimes of poachers are adding to the instability that already exists.

The protection of endangered species is one of the first issues I chose to promote as part of my mission as Special Envoy. Alerted by Lee White to the fate of forest elephants and by Jane Goodall, Sabrina Krief and Claudine André to the fate of great apes, one of my first visits was to central Africa in June 2013.

On my return, I worked with Laurent Fabius, Minister of Foreign Affairs, and Philippe Martin, Minister of Ecology, Sustainable Development and Energy, to draw up a national plan against poaching and trafficking in endangered species that makes France one of the countries cracking down hardest on traffickers. The French President signalled his commitment at the round table organized on the sidelines of the Elysée Summit for Peace and Security in Africa, where he announced the destruction of our illegal ivory stocks; we carried out that destruction last week, at the foot of the Eiffel Tower!

France intends to participate resolutely in the battle against the traffickers, in order to safeguard endangered species, side by side with the people who are among the first victims of those crimes. As many of you have recalled and as François Hollande emphasized on 5 December 2013, it is “a moral duty to future generations, a national sovereignty challenge for states and a security issue for the African population. And the ecological balance of the planet is also at stake.”

So France fully subscribes to the proposed declaration. I’d like to thank and congratulate all those who worked on drawing it up. The text is comprehensive, brave and ambitious. It picks up on the work already done in adopting previous declarations, and it also takes an important step by tackling the issue of demand by means of different proposals.

“The problem of elephants will be settled”, a park ranger told me, “when they disappear, or when the demand for ivory ceases.” I’m delighted that the proposal to extend the moratorium on the ivory trade has been approved. Yes of course, CITES is the body with authority on wildlife, and it was our political responsibility – given the scale poaching has taken on – to send a strong signal to the member states.

As Their Royal Highnesses The Prince of Wales and The Duke of Cambridge highlighted in the video I had the opportunity to watch, we shall win the battle to protect wild species only by joining forces, combining the efforts of the countries of origin, transit countries and destination countries.

As always when it comes to the environment, no state alone – however powerful, rich or large – has the solution.

The mission François Hollande has entrusted me with consists in alerting the general public to the urgency of the ecological crisis, in the run-up to the 21st meeting of the states party to the Framework Convention on Climate Change, in Paris.

Climate and biodiversity may appear to some people to be foreign problems. Yet if we don’t succeed in saving these animals, which are among the world’s most emblematic creatures, what will we do when ordinary biodiversity, all the species which make up what Robert Barbault called the living tissue of the planet, is in jeopardy? Large animals, through their symbolic value, are a psychological barrier intended to protect all those other living creatures with which we don’t necessarily find favour. And our planet’s resilience to climate change depends on all animal and plant species working in harmony.

We have to get away from a utilitarian view of nature. But above all we must free ourselves from anthropocentrism, in which ultimately nature is there only to help man fulfil his destiny. Nature has its own raison d’être. Protecting biodiversity means confirming man’s uniqueness. Saving elephants and other animal species means humanizing ourselves! I’ll end with these words by Romain Gary, an excerpt from his “Letter to an elephant”: “If we stop destroying elephants and save them from extinction, we may yet succeed in protecting our own species from our destructive enterprises as well”.

This declaration is a decisive step in the right direction, and France wholeheartedly supports it.

Thank you./.

Published on 13/02/2014

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