Launching a new EU action plan in the fight against wildlife trafficking

Speakers at the Wildlife Crime Workshop, the author is second from the right.The International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) was invited to speak at a workshop held by the European Parliament’s Environment Committee on wildlife Trafficking.

The event brought together specialists to discuss the scale of the problem and a roadmap of action for Europe to help stem the flow of illegal wildlife products.

Wildlife trafficking and poaching has reached endemic proportions over the past few years as Hilary Clinton acknowledged in her groundbreaking speech on the issue in November 2012.

The black market in wildlife is estimated to be only second in size to illegal arms and drugs trafficking.

The figures for this crime are staggering.

The Europol Organised Crime Threat Assessment (OCTA) for 2011 has highlighted that the “revenues generated by TES (trafficking of endangered species) are estimated at 18 to 26 billion euros per year, with the EU the foremost destination market in the world”.

IFAW's Adrian Hiel and MEP Gerben-Jan Gerbrandy speak with media on the MEP's newly launched EU Action Plan against Wildlife Trafficking.At the event, Dutch Liberal MEP Gerben-Jan Gerbrandy, launched his EU Action plan against wildlife trafficking, which sought to leverage the EU’s political power to tackle this crime.

The plan itself covers everything from wildlife crime on the internet to establishing a global coalition to tackle this scourge.

I fully endorse the recommendations laid out within this plan, and urge you to read it and add your support to Mr Gerbrandy.

The event saw speakers from Interpol, the European Commission, the US mission to the EU, as well as leading conservation NGO’s all highlight the insidiousness of this crime.

The vast sums of money involved and relatively low penalties, have led to the involvement of organised crime and terrorist groups.

Speakers including Interpol’s Ioana Botszatu and Caroline Broun, from the US State Department stated that the trafficking has strong links to organised crime and terrorism and poses a serious threat to human health as well as an evident threat to endangered species and biodiversity around the world.

Groups specialising in money laundering, financial crime, thefts and drug trafficking in Member States are now engaged in environmental crime as well. They are also taking advantage of high tech weapons for their activities and the internet to facilitate trade.

According to the Elephant Trade Information System (ETIS) Europe accounts for around a third of all ivory seizures worldwide, with Belgium, France, Portugal and the UK acting as key transit routes. These countries along with Italy, Netherlands and Spain are noted for their frequent, small scale seizures of ivory

At the workshop, IFAW highlighted how criminal gangs are engaged in every link in the wildlife trade chain, from hunting, smuggling to consumption. IFAW seeks to actively engage and attack every link in this trade chain.

During the discussions we talked about how as part of our “Prevention of wildlife trafficking trainings programme” we train customs agents, border police, game wardens and wildlife enforcement officials - the people on the front lines of wildfire protection - to more effectively protect wildlife animals from the scourge of illegal wildlife trade.

To date, IFAW has trained over 1.600 wildlife law enforcement officials in over 50 countries in Africa, the Caribbean, the Middle East and Asia. And we discussed how we use the latest behavioural studies, to try to change the consumption patterns of those most likely to purchase such items.

However we cannot do this alone. That is why we partner with governments around the world and organisations such as INTERPOL to train enforcement officers and to arrest those at the heart of organised crime.

Delegates at the workshop were rightly impressed by a video we showed them of our collaboration with INTERPOL’s largest ever transnational operation targeting ivory trafficking which involved 14 countries across Eastern, Southern and Western Africa, resulted in more than 200 arrests and the seizure of nearly two tonnes of contraband elephant ivory.

Following this workshop, we are pleased to have a new partner in our battle against the traffickers and poachers. Mr Gerbrandy’s EU Action Plan is a valuable addition to our arsenal against the criminals.

We will be working closely with Mr Gerbrandy and the European Parliament to ensure his plan gets the support it deserves.

--SS

Citations:

Hilary Clinton remarks at the Partnership Meeting on wildlife Crime 2011

Europol Organised Crime Threat Assessment (2011), pg 40, https://www.europol.europa.eu/sites/default/files/publications/octa2011.pdf

 

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