Engaging Police and Crime Commissioners in the fight against wildlife crime in the UK
The killing of elephants in their tens of thousands for ivory trinkets and the horrific poaching of rhinos for their horn has been well documented in the press, but it’s not only the plains and forests of Africa that see criminals trading in wildlife. Wildlife and wildlife products are being traded illegally in the UK which is why it is important that we fight wildlife crime both at home as well as abroad.
Fortunately Britain has some of the world’s top class wildlife crime fighting experts, many of whom I have the had the opportunity to meet and work alongside as part of the Partnership for Action Against Wildlife Crime (PAW). This partnership brings together the Government, law enforcers and Non-Governmental Organisations so we can increase our effectiveness in combating wildlife crime.
Into this mix enters the relatively new posts of the Police and Crime Commissioners (PCCs). The role of the PCCs came into being in November 2012 with the first election for Commissioners. They replace the abolished Local Police Authorities and are now responsible for ensuring their constabulary is effectively policed and are answerable to the electorate.
It is important to ensure that PCCs do not overlook the importance of tackling wildlife crime and so it is encouraging that a third of all PCCs signed pledges to enforce wildlife crime legislation and just this month the Association of Police and Crime Commissioners held their first conference on rural crime. At the conference both the Association of Chief Police Officers’ Lead on Wildlife Crime, Bernard Lawson, and the PCC for Dyfed Powys, Christopher Salmon, acknowledged that PCCs are or will be getting more correspondence on this issue than any other.
It is encouraging to see that many PCCs are taking the fight against wildlife crime even further with Bedfordshire PCC, Olly Martins, recently organising a round table discussion on this issue with his local police wildlife crime officer and conservation organisations.
I was encouraged to hear other PCCs mention that they have met with their local police wildlife crime officers and learnt about how they are working to stamp out activities such as hare coursing and deer poaching. I was also pleased to hear that a number of PCCs are clubbing together to work towards a united approach to addressing rural crime.
Head of the UK’s National Wildlife Crime Unit (NWCU), Nevin Hunter, outlined how his unit works with other agencies such as the UK Border Force CITES Unit and police forces across Britain to catch wildlife criminals. The Unit focuses on cracking down on badger persecution (sadly all the more important in light of the Government’s green lighting of the badger cull), poaching and protecting endangered species from exploitation.
I represented the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) at the Association of Police and Crime Commissioners conference and called upon PCCs to campaign for the protection of the NWCU, a Unit whose vital role in fighting wildlife crime was recognised by a Parliamentary Committee which looked at the enforcement of wildlife crime in the UK and called on the Government to commit to long-term funding of the NWCU.
Ivory is being trafficked from Africa to Asia via the UK. Criminals have attempted to smuggle rhino horns through Britain. Badgers are being baited by dogs for entertainment. Hare coursers are chasing and killing hares for fun. People are poaching deer. Some hunters are illegally pursuing foxes with dogs for ‘sport’.
Wildlife crime happens here, and we need to ensure PCCs have a plan in place to tackle it. IFAW, with your help, will continue to urge PCCs to ensure their force is stamping out wildlife crime.
For information about who is your local PCC email me at email@example.com or call IFAW on 0207 587 6700.