Protecting wildlife beyond borders

Millions of wild plants and animals are extracted from their natural habitats annually, destined for tables, homes, gardens, and other unimaginable purposes. While much of this trade is legal and sustainable, a significant portion operates illegally, jeopardising the very existence of numerous endangered species. At the same time, climate change is wreaking havoc on unique ecosystems, causing further damage and worrying prospects for natural wonders of the world. International collaboration can play a key role in protecting endangered and vulnerable plant and animal species around the globe. 

From the vibrant Succulent Karoo biome in South Africa to the majestic peaks of the Himalayas, wildlife paints the diverse canvas of our planet. Beyond their sheer beauty, these creatures and plants are the bedrock of biodiversity, essential for healthy ecosystems. Yet, this intricate balance faces peril as species declines and habitats vanish, sending shockwaves through communities, livelihoods, and exacerbating the impacts of climate change.

The Netherlands recognises the importance of protecting animals, plants and overall biodiversity. Nature areas, wild animals and plants in the Netherlands are protected by the Nature Conservation Act, which took effect on 1 January 2017. Our support to safeguard species transcends borders. For example, the Netherlands’ Embassy in Pretoria has close ties with local organisations fighting to protect wildlife.

In regions like South Africa's Succulent Karoo, the battle against habitat loss rages on, while climate change, and more recently an increase in poaching, intensify the challenges faced by this fragile ecosystem. In Limpopo, Mpumalanga and the KwaZulu-Natal provinces of South Africa rhino poaching threaten iconic species.

Yet, amid these trials, rays of hope emerge. Organisations like WWF South Africa and the Wildlife Forensic Academy spearhead initiatives to address the impact of illegal wildlife trade and restore vital habitats in South-Africa. Their tireless efforts not only conserve biodiversity but also empower local communities, fostering sustainable coexistence.

Collaboration for a unique ecosystem

The Succulent Karoo biome is one of only two arid biodiversity hotspots globally. It contains many incredibly unique plant species, particularly succulents, most of which are found nowhere else on earth. This exceptional floral diversity is renowned worldwide, however only a small percentage of the biome is formally conserved. This area is not only important from an international biodiversity point of view, but also it provides a home to communities who have been grazing livestock in this region for generations. 

The Succulent Karoo’s irreplaceable biodiversity is under pressure from several threats including land degradation, mining, climate change and most recently the illegal trade in succulents. Over the past few years, WWF South Africa have seen one genus of plants, Conophytums, have one of the highest threat statuses among any group of plants. With 85% of the 190 species now considered endangered or critically endangered. Katherine Forsythe, product manager for WWF’s Succulent Karoo programme: “We fear that a number of these species are now likely functionally extinct in the wild. I’m not sure this dramatic rate of loss of species over such a short time has ever been recorded anywhere in the world. International collaboration is going to be vital in helping curb this illegal trade as these species are being sent overseas to destinations in Asia, Europe and America".

Forensic learning to combat wildlife crime

Meanwhile, on the other side of the country, founder of Wildlife Forensic Academy, Andro Vos also witnesses terrifying rates of wildlife loss, especially rhino. Vos embodies the spirit of proactive engagement and entrepreneurship. After an impressive career in human forensic investigation in the Netherlands, Vos found himself witnessing the horrific crimes behind the illegal trade of wild animals in South Africa. Recognising the nexus between wildlife crime and organised criminal activities, Vos launched the first-of-its-kind academy to equip the local community with the knowledge needed to trace wildlife crimes. During his time in South Africa, he quickly realised the intersection between forensic evidence from human crime scenes and animal slaughter. While witnessing a poached rhino for the first time, Vos realised that the amount of people that come into place in a wildlife crime scene was having a direct impact on evidence damage. The Wildlife Forensic Academy embodies the transformative power of knowledge exchange. By training law enforcement and fostering interdisciplinary collaboration, the Academy equips individuals with the tools to combat wildlife crime effectively. By preserving crucial evidence and dismantling illegal networks, they play a pivotal role in wildlife conservation.

Partnerships for conservation

Public Sector Partnership Manager at WWF SA, Shela Patrickson speaks of the successful collaboration between the organisation and the Netherlands’ embassy in South Africa. “From freshwater conservation to land management and community engagement, together with the Dutch embassy we’re ensuring water security and supporting healthy freshwater ecosystems”. Water is critical for biodiversity, species and ecosystems, and this collaborative approach offers a holistic, systems approach to nature conservation. 

WWF SA are not facing the country’s wildlife conservation challenges alone. Amsterdam-based non-profit Commonland brings people together to restore degraded landscapes and regenerate the Earth, partnered with WWF SA, to support partners and local landowners to manage their own biodiversity, water resources and land in a sustainable way. Similarly, WWF Netherlands is actively involved in channelling funding to WWF SA to contribute to their Black Rhino Range Exchange Programme. The number of black rhino in Africa dropped from 100,000 in the 1960s to just 2,500 in the mid-1990s. The main factor being poaching and habitat loss. The Black Rhino Range Exchange Programme is aimed at increasing growth rate and numbers of the critically endangered species. The number of black rhino has since increased to over 6,000. 

The fight for wildlife conservation is a shared responsibility

The Netherlands is deeply committed to supporting such initiatives. Through knowledge exchange and capacity building, we strive to bolster the efforts of organisations like WWF and the Wildlife Forensic Academy. International collaboration is imperative to achieving global conservation goals. Wildlife crime transcends borders, necessitating a coordinated response. By pooling resources, sharing expertise, and fostering partnerships, we can safeguard biodiversity for generations to come.

We need to unite, across nations and disciplines, to preserve the wonders of our natural world. Together, we can create a future where wildlife thrives, communities prosper, and the delicate balance of our planet is preserved.

Interested in learning more about how we can join hands for wildlife conservation?

Follow us on social media or contact your local Dutch embassy to discover collaboration opportunities. 

Get in touch and join us

Want to know more about how you can work together with the Netherlands to achieve your goals? Or how you can help contribute to or spread the word on campaigns, events and initiatives? Contact us directly at info@nlplatform.nl so we can help you connect to the right people.