A UK victory in the fight against wildlife crime
The UK’s National Wildlife Crime Unit (NWCU) has been at the forefront of the fight to protect animals from criminals since its inception in 2006.Despite its success, the Unit was facing a real risk of closure as its funding was due to run out at the end of March 2013.
This week I was extremely pleased to hear that the Government would indeed provide the needed funding for another year.
The fact that the Unit remains intact to catch those seeking to profit from killing and capturing wildlife is thanks in a large part to our supporters.
In November nearly 5,000 supporters from the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) contacted their Members of Parliament asking them to urge the Home Office and Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) to continue funding the Unit.
On behalf of IFAW I would like to pass on our thanks to all of you who acted to save the NWCU.
While this is great victory for wildlife, it is essential that we keep pushing for the long-term funding of the Unit to ensure it can maintain its focus on catching wildlife criminals.
This is a view endorsed by Environmental Audit Committee (EAC), a cross-party parliamentary panel, which looked at wildlife crime enforcement in the UK in 2012.
IFAW was instrumental in ensuring the Committee looked at wildlife crime enforcement and welcomes its recognition of the NWCU’s role in stamping out crime.
The Unit works in partnership with other enforcement bodies to clamp down on the international illegal trade in wildlife products (including ivory, rhino horn and tiger products), protect bats, birds of prey and fresh water pearl mussels, and fight poaching and badger persecution.
Recent success stories, involving NWCU investigators working in partnership with local police, include the jailing of an egg smuggler and an internet trader selling wildlife products online.
Jeffrey Lendrum, 48, from York Close, Towcester, Northamptonshire, was jailed for 30 months after being caught trying to smuggle rare peregrine falcon eggs out of the country. Eleven of the eggs were successfully hatched and reintroduced to the wild.
Mark Rowland of Orford Road, Swaffham, Norfolk, was sentenced to nine months’ imprisonment after trading wildlife products over the internet including rhinoceros horn, as well as taxidermy specimens including a hen harrier, a wildcat, a barn owl and a long-eared owl.
A Serious Crime Prevention Order was also imposed, banning Rowland from keeping or trading in any species protected by UK or EU legislation.
The NWCU partners with INTERPOL and EUROPOL on international policing operations. Operations include working with EUROPOL to crack down on rhino horn theft and smuggling and supporting INTERPOL projects on the internet trade in ivory and the illegal trade in tiger parts.
I have had the honour of meeting and working alongside members of the Unit who inspire me with their genuine commitment and dedication to clamping down on wildlife crime, not to mention their very impressive knowledge of wildlife and the laws protecting animals from exploitation.
The current Head of the Unit, Nevin Hunter, began his work catching wildlife criminals as a Wildlife Crime Police Officer for the Devon and Cornwall Constabulary, putting in many extra hours to ensure the criminals were prosecuted.
The same can be said of the rest of the Unit who go over and above what is required of them to protect our wildlife both at home and abroad.
The NWCU does an excellent job of working alongside other important enforcement agencies such as the UK Border Force to ensure maximum protection for wildlife.
While these organisations work together to fight wildlife crime, environmental and animal welfare campaigning organisations have worked and will continue to work together to ensure the Unit continues its vital role.
For more information about or efforts to help prevent wildlife crime, visit our campaign page.