Michael Balinga (left), Team Lead for Combating Illegal Wildlife Trade,  and Claire Beastall (right), a consultant, USAID Funded WABILED Programme, with some participants. Picture: ESTHER ADJORKOR ADJEI
Michael Balinga (left), Team Lead for Combating Illegal Wildlife Trade, and Claire Beastall (right), a consultant, USAID Funded WABILED Programme, with some participants. Picture: ESTHER ADJORKOR ADJEI

Develop legislation to combat illegal wildlife trade - Biodiversity specialist urges nations

Ghana and other countries in West Africa have been urged to put in place measures at the policy and legislative levels to combat the illegal trade in wildlife.

Apart from the measures, governments have also been urged to make resources available for enforcement of the restrictive measures and build the capacity of enforcement agencies, especially the Wildlife Division of the Forestry Commission.

A biodiversity conservation specialist, Michael Balinga, who made the call, explained that the trafficking of wildlife was a serious crime that had dire security implications for the country, thus the need to prevent it and also provide punitive measures for the breach of the law.

“Where penalties are quite light, they must be made stronger enough to be deterrent towards criminals in the wildlife trafficking business. Steps must also be taken to ensure that wildlife trafficking become high risk for criminals and low profit activity for them,” he stressed.

Mr Balinga, who is the team lead for Combatting Wildlife Trafficking (CWT), an initiative of the USAID-funded West Africa Biodiversity and Low Emissions Development (WABiLED) Programme, made the call at a workshop organised in Accra.

The workshop was organised by USAID and was meant to build the capacity of stakeholders in the transport sector, financial institutions and law enforcement agencies operating in the country’s sea and land ports on combatting illegal wildlife trade.

The three-day capacity building workshop will equip the 60 participants with relevant knowledge in wildlife trade, crimes associated with the trade and how to collaborate across agencies to combat the threats posed by wildlife trafficking.


Africa is largely regarded as the source continent for wildlife going to Europe, Asia and sometimes America, but the trade is plagued with trafficking of essential wildlife in violation of local and international restrictions.

The WABiLED was therefore, rolled out as a four-year programme funded by USAID with the core objectives to combat wildlife trafficking and enhance great ape conservation; reduce deforestation, forest degradation, and biodiversity loss in key transboundary forest landscapes; and reduce greenhouse gas emissions and increasing carbon sequestration from land use.

Mr Balinga said the CWT initiative in Ghana was crucial because it had targeted the staff of country’s sea and air ports and private sector institutions operating with those ports to explore ways by which they could collaborate to stem the tides.

“The banks are part of this workshop because they manage financial transfers and.can easily detect when there are abnormal transactions that might be related to wildlife trafficking,” he said.

He added that wildlife trafficking had dire security implications for the country and needed concerted efforts to combat. “Traffickers go to forests and communities to get the animals, and knowing that it is not lawful, they are armed with unregistered weapons; ready to shoot down enforcement agents; and put the lives of other people at risk for their business objectives to be realized,” he said.

Again, he said once wildlife trafficking was illegal and not structured, it could not be supervised “and there is not guarantee that the way the animals are being handled and managed is safe.”

“The animals could transmit diseases to domestic animals or human beings. The bad example of Ebola, COVID-19 and the negative impact it had on African economies must guide us to do everything possible to prevent the spread of zoonotic diseases,” he said. 

He observed that Ghana needed to play a key role in combatting wildlife trafficking in West Africa because the country was a beneficiary of ECOWAS’s regulations and regional strategy for combatting wildlife crimes that was adopted in 2023.

Economic implications

A trafficking consultant of the WABiLED, Claire Beastall, said wildlife trafficking had economic implications, and that it was a drain on the fortunes of the tourism sector. She said revenue losses to hotels and related hospitality facilities had negative implications on the economy.

Again, she said wildlife trafficking supported corruption and organised crime, which had negative consequences for economic development.

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