Nicole Chulick, the United States’ deputy chief of mission in Ghana, has urged journalists to help raise awareness about environmental crimes and the harm they cause to the environment and communities. Her Excellency Chulick told a group of media in Accra that the American government is beefing up enforcement operations and working to investigate and prosecute people who illegally traffic in wildlife, wood, fish, and animals.
She did, however, mention the obstacles to these efforts, which include a lack of public knowledge, a lack of public awareness of what nature crimes are or who contributes to them, and a lack of statistics.
“The USA government works with foreign government partners in a wide range of stakeholders to address nature crimes whether individually or as a group and we hope to leverage existing resources for greater effectiveness and efficiency,” Chulick says.
She encouraged journalists to take an interest in environmental crimes to ask difficult questions of regulators as part of their watchdog duty and also point out policy gaps.
“Ghana is fortunate to have a strong history of press freedom and journalists like you can help educate people about nature crimes. You can help how the harm that nature crimes do to our communities and you can help create an understanding and ultimately, prevention of nature crimes,” Chulick hints. You can also ask tough questions and hold regulating agencies accountable when they do not protect natural resources.”
Nature crimes such as illegal encroachment might raise the danger of disease spread says Chulick. “Disease transmission from wild animals to humans and the spread of these diseases by disrupting ecosystems, poaching wildlife, and exposing humans to new pathogens are all possibilities, and it is worth noting that ebola and marbug virus diseases have been found in bats and other animals sold as bush meat. As a result, these illegal nature crimes exercise those disorders.”
Every year, nature cirmes earn hundreds of billions of dollars for global organizations around the world. Because of its complexity and money generation, nature crimes are categorised as organized crime.
Ghana’s Wildlife Management Bill no longer in line with international best practices. They do not provide an adequate legal foundation for carrying out the Forest and Wildlife Policy and the Forest Development Management Plan 2016-2036. Similarly, the current legislation does not properly identify the goals and objectives of wildlife management and the many protected areas in Ghana, as well as the penalties for violations.
Mr Benito Owusu-Bio, the country’s deputy minister of lands and natural resources in charge of forestry disclosed that the government is stepping up law enforcement operations, including amending bills such as the Wildlife Management Bill.
“The Wildlife Bill which is currently before Parliament for passage into law is developed to create a legislative foundation for effective wildlife management,” Mr Owusu-Bio says.
The deployment of Rapid Response Teams to hotspots with the help of many security agencies and working with officials from Togo, Côte d’Ivoire and Burkina Faso to curb illegal overland exports were mentioned as part of the efforts to curb nature crimes.
“Suspension of reconnaissance, prospecting, and exploring activities in Forest Reserves, unless extraordinary conditions exist, placing a ban on the harvesting and export of Rosewood, Strengthening collaboration with GRA Customs and the Forestry Commission to prevent mislabeling of containers at the ports and development and implementation of wood tracking system to monitor timber from farm level to the export are also among the measures the government is taking to protect the environment.”
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