The 64th General Assembly of the International Council for Game and Wildlife Conservation (CIC) opened its doors in Montreux, Switzerland yesterday.
The motto is “Harmony with Wildlife – Urban and Rural Perceptions”. This slogan was selected as over the past couple years, with the rise of easily-accessible media reports and social connectivity, differences in perceptions of hunting and hunters are increasingly conflicting in all areas of the world. These strongly opposing views create a divide among people which is deepened with the increasing presence of media in our lives where information, either correct or not, can reach hundreds of thousands of people in a matter of days. For hunting, a highly emotive topic, this has already proven to be a hindrance its use as a conservation tool, despite its many successes, and it could be detrimental to its future unless we fight back. Those which we are fighting are the anti-hunters, animal rightists, and those who are following their emotions and misrepresentations of information rather than scientific evidence.
George Aman, President of the CIC, welcomed the participants and recalled the accomplishments of the CIC since the last General Assembly, which was held in Brussels, Belgium last year. The President underlined that despite all of the very positive work being done by hunters all over the world in the name of conservation, the hunting community is still facing unusually strong attacks, and unity and action are required to achieve the ambitious goals the CIC has set.
“You are going to witness that for the first time in the history of the CIC General Assemblies, we are engaging in controversial discussions with some of our critics and opponents who will be with us in the next coming days. I encourage you to use the occasion to have constructive discussions with these guests.”
Emmanuel La Roche, Head of the Swiss Delegation of the CIC, in his opening remarks, highlighted that Switzerland is a small, densely populated country, which inevitably faces conflicts between nature and humans. “We are convinced that this event will provide ample ground for discussion. In addition, we are going to surprise our guests with interesting trips during which they will get to know Montreux with all its sights, its unique cultural character and obviously, its culinary delights.”
This year’s keynote speaker was Marco Lambertini, the Director General of the WWF International, who highlighted that despite the differences, a dialogue with the hunting community is absolutely critical, and building a common effort is essential. Lambertini stressed the point that we live in a very special moment of the history of the planet and civilization where one species, humans, are altering systems that have evolved over eons and support life. We are experiencing what he called the “two sides of ecological crisis”: climate change and loss of nature. Those two sides are connected, although the latter is barely discussed. We continue to do great damage to the planet and we haven’t learned how to grow our economy without harming nature. If we continue to produce, consume, and power our lives the way we do right now, nature, wildlife, forests, and oceans could be overwhelmed and irreversibly damaged. In the past years, we have seen an exponential acceleration of the unsustainable and wasteful use of natural resources.
There are several other threats to the planet: species overexploitation and habitat loss continue to be big issues, mainly due to the expansion of human settlements and activities.
Lambertini pointed out that legal hunting is beneficial for nature and wildlife. “Hunting is one thing, but within it there is subsistence hunting. It is a fundamental right of so many communities. Latin America, South East Asia, Africa, but the growth of unsustainable hunting with highly advanced tools is having an impact even where these local communities live, the collapse of wildlife in the forest impacts the communities.“
Poaching and illegal trafficking of wildlife are factors which have a huge impact on wildlife. Well managed and regulated sustainable hunting contributes to the control of poaching, and sometimes is the only viable economic land use option which provides income to rural families and communities. He stated that WWF welcomes the continued effort of the CIC and the hunting community to fight against poaching. “Wildlife crime is the tragedy of the human side, it does not help wildlife and does not help people… but it is still present. Thanks to the coalition of hunters for fighting poaching.”
In the name of WWF, the Director General invited the hunters and conservationists to monitor, measure, and demonstrate the benefit of sustainable use of wildlife with facts and figures in order to avoid critics. WWF recognizes the effects of the consumptive use of wildlife and encourages the CIC to present scientific facts, so that they can also demonstrate the impact.
“The challenge is living in harmony with nature. This is a challenge not just for wildlife but for us humans as well. Together it is possible, this is the campaign of WWF. Working together and finding solutions is the reason why I am here today. We all, in different ways, care for nature and we have to do it together.” – Marco Lambertini concluded.