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UN Renews Sanctions, Focuses on Curbing Wildlife Crime in Central Africa

Jan 31, 2014 01:02 PM EST

Thursday the United Nations Security Council renewed a host of sanctions against the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), drawing praise from conservation groups such as the World Wildlife Fund who contend that armed groups and the flow of illegal weapons in the DRC are enabling wildlife crime.

The unanimous resolution to extend the arms embargo was largely a measure to bring greater security and reduced violence to the tumultuous region, but the resolution did refer directly to poaching and wildlife crime in the region.

The resolution stressed the importance of regional cooperation in stopping the exploitation of natural resources, including wildlife, stating that there is a direct link "between the illegal exploitation of natural resources, including poaching and illegal trafficking of wildlife, illicit trade in such resources, and the proliferation and trafficking of arms as one of the major factors fueling and exacerbating conflicts in the Great Lakes region of Africa."

Each year more than 20,000 elephants are killed for their ivory, and much of that poaching happens in the DRC and the Central African Republic (CAR), the WWF said.

"Individuals involved in poaching and trafficking of wildlife are now singled out for sanctions where the proceeds of their activities have been used to finance conflict," said Wendy Elliott, species program manager at WWF. "This is a huge step forward for reducing human suffering, improving peace and security and strengthening wildlife conservation."

Earlier this week, a separate set of sanctions was laid down upon the CAR. That set of resolutions also targeted wildlife crime.

"The DRC and CAR resolutions are critical. They illustrate the high priority that the Security Council places on ending the human pain and regional instability that accompany these environmental crimes," Elliott said in a statement.

More sanctions of this nature are likely as evidence mounts that finances gained from poaching and other wildlife crime are being used to fund militant groups, the WWF said.

In February a high-profile, global meeting to end illicit wildlife trafficking will take place in England.

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