The 2018 IWT Conference news

The 2018 Illegal Wildlife Trade Conference

World Leaders, Royalty and NGO's gathered at the Illegal Wildlife Trade conference in London on 11th and 12th October, 2018.  The Rt Hon Jeremy Hunt (Foreign Secretary)  in his opening speech declared "If we fail to act we will never be forgiven".

What an honour and privilege for TMT to be invited to this conference! This was due to our UK ivory report, exposing the extent of the illegal ivory trade here in the UK and giving the government their first evaluated evidence of the trade.

Two Million Tusks thoughts, reflections and disappointments of the IWT conference, are as follows:


The main two day conference was full on, with early starts due to tight security and many sessions, some overlapping which was a shame, as sessions that were more valuable to the work of TMT had to be picked.  A heavy weight of national and international delegates in attendance including; Prince William, Heads of State and government officials representing 80+ countries, business leaders, scientists, NGO's and various influential individuals forming a global collection of people committed (we hope!) to ending international wildlife crime. 


In between the conference sessions, TMT  chattered with either Zac Goldsmith (IWT Conference Champion and MP for Richmond) who is so committed to wildlife causes, or Boris Johnson (former Foreign Secretary) and his dad Stanley Johnson again huge advocates for wildlife. Or the Rt Hon Helen Clark (former Prime Minister of New Zealand) or, the incredibly fearless and highly respected Ofir Drori (Eagle Wildlife Law Enforcement) who is a bit like James Bond 007 for wildlife.

John Scanlon (former Sec. General of CITES and now Special Envoy, African Parks)  and others there knew about TMT's report.  Lucy Vigne (Independent Consultant) worked with late Esmond Bradley Martin (murdered in Nairobi) exposing the illegal ivory trade markets in the East.

Mary Rice (CEO of EIA) who helped TMT with our report, John Stephenson (CEO Stop Ivory and Co-Secretariat of the Elephant Protection Initiative)  discussed with TMT actioning topics with Wildlife Conversation Society, Traffic, Jane Goodall Institute Australia, (TMT submitted to their government consultation), World Animal Protection, IFAW and many more.

Additionally TMT had a meeting with Cathy Deane (CEO Save the Rhino) whom TMT recently helped with information for their report Sounding the Horn, published during the IWT conference.  Their findings of rhino items being sold in UK auctions houses with no provenance or proof of age was very similar to TMT's detailed report on UK ivory.


The 2018 Declaration on Illegal Wildlife Trade was signed by 50+ countries committing to action to protect endangered species around the globe and more countries are expected to sign up to during the conference.

David Fein (Group General Counsel, Standard Charter Bank) announced that 20 global financial institutions have signed up to a new private sector Financial Task force.  Banks are now globally collaborating to follow the financial footprints of criminal networks and obstruct flows of financial traffic.  Training staff in awareness to identify suspicious financial activity.

Rt. Hon Jeremy Hunt (Foreign Secretary) announced a new UK initiative to target traffickers by helping countries in Africa and Asian to launch investigations and seize assets. Parliament's Criminal Finances Act has strengthened the UK Government's own powers to combat money laundering and freeze unexplained wealth.

Lord William Hague spoke about the achievements of Transport Taskforce working with more than 100 companies to thwart movement of illegal wildlife products and similar number of travel and tourism companies signed the Travel and Tourism Declaration to help combat the illegal wildlife trade.

Tourism chiefs are encouraging everyone of us to become eyes and ears.  The CEO of the World Travel and Tourism Council said they are developing an app to enable everyone to report illegal wildlife trading wherever they are.  Law enforcement agencies could have access to the location of people, like illegal market readers within minutes! through their members they have the potential to target 1 billion travellers, 300 million of those in China. Their slogan is - it's time to make every journey count.

The Rt. Hon Michael Gove announced the Ivory Alliance to a coalition of high level political leaders, conservationist, celebrities and famous faces dedicated to defeating the illegal trade in ivory.  The Ivory Alliance will work with partners globally to secure at least 30 new commitments to domestic ivory bans by the end of 2020 and for tougher law enforcement and other ivory legislation in key demand and transit areas.

Often overlooked

The illegal trade in live animals and plants often for pets but also for consumption. There were sessions highlighting the trade from South American countries to feed consumer demand in the West.  The South American continent is often overlooked as the emphasis of global attention is mainly focused on the African/West/East.

Also, there were discussions about future work with faith based organisations globally whose ideals were more inline with local populations ideals, therefore helping locals getting a better understanding of problems and issues.

TMT's thoughts, reflections and disappointments

It was inspiring to see the collective force of so many leaders from around the world from all backgrounds religions and cultures come together in collaboration to try and tackle the 4th largest illicit trade on the planet, estimated to be worth a yearly $20 billion.

TMT were grateful for the UK Government for hosting an event such as this, the breadth of sessions and areas covered were extensive. Many people may deride events such as these, but there is value gained from them, for TMT anyway, it was a great opportunity to network, share ideas and importantly learn.

However, even the knowledge TMT gained seemed to contradict claims speakers made in some speeches.  Who was speaking genuinely and who was just speaking politically came to mind? Was the truth being 'massaged' by some for the good of others? Were all African leaders there truly speaking as one? Or, were some more enthusiastically active and proactive than others? there were also far too few representatives from Africa, it would have been great to see more panellists and more convictions from the whole of the African continent about the ways they are untied in fighting the illegal wildlife trade. They are the host countries after all, where all these illegal trafficked animals live. Immense amounts of illegal wildlife trade is still leaving air and particularly sea ports from Africa.

The reality is though, no matter what country in the world we discuss, unless there is the will with meaningful law enforcement carried through, and tough prosecutions handed out, here in the UK too, how will we ever get on top of this? We also need to see transparency otherwise we will never know.  It is all very well to 'talk and talk' but every country globally has to 'walk and walk'.  Smoke and mirrors will not do.  It was disappointing the law enforcement side of the conference were all based in different locations with Interpol.  You can understand why for some reasons, but the lack of senior law enforcement panellist's at sessions was a missed opportunity. As a senior ex police intelligence officer said it should be named The Illegal Wildlife Crime conference and Not 'Trade'. As the word 'trade' does not resonate with the police as being a crime, and illegal wildlife trafficking is a crime.

East African Luncheon

The day after the conference, TMT's Jane Alexander gave a talk to 120 people at the 61st Annual East African Luncheon about the teams work and the conference.