The World Conservation Union is holding its annual Congress in Barcelona, Spain, this week, with more than 8,000 experts and officials from over 100 countries expected to attend. The annual event provides the global conservation community the opportunity to assess the successes and challenges of conservation, to debate solutions and form partnerships and coalitions to implement those solutions.
The U.S. delegation will consist of senior officials from several scientific, conservation and research agencies, led by Claudia McMurray, Assistant Secretary for the State Department's Bureau of Oceans and International Environmental and Scientific Affairs. She says that conservation faces serious challenges including violent conflict:
“There are particular places in Africa that are examples of conflict and present an even greater challenge than the usual conservation challenge. The illegal trade in animals and plants endangered species is something that, I think, has really come to the forefront since the Conservation Congress met four years ago. There are all these threats to endangered species ... loss of habitat, population growth, other pressure, but once you put illegal trade on top of it, that really is driving a lot of species right to the brink of extinction.”
Assistant Secretary McMurray says developing countries are forced to make difficult choices:
“A lot of this biodiversity is found in these developing countries and they have pressures to grow economically, just like we were able to grow in the last century. So while they want to be conservationist, sometimes the competing pressures are quite intense.”
The U.S. has long been a leader in global conservation, the assistant secretary says:
“The Endangered Species Act has really become a model for other countries around the world and we passed in the 70s. We have programs in individual countries that look at anything from elephant conservation to the endangered rhinos of Africa and a whole set of cat species including tigers.”
Assistant Secretary McMurray says the U.S. looks forward to working with its international partners to protect the world's irreplaceable treasury of plants and animals.