IFAW at Westminster to urge politicians to help stamp out wildlife crime
And so to Parliament once more...this time we were raising the political profile of the links between international wildlife crime and organised crime and terrorism.
Wildlife crime impacts on both animals and people. Elephant poaching for ivory and the trade in tiger bones and rhino horn have become highly lucrative illegal activities. Rhino horns are worth more than gold gram for gram and ivory is now hoarded away as an ‘investment opportunity’. So it’s no surprise that organised crime and armed insurgents have cottoned on to the vast and comparatively easy profits that can be made from the callous killing of these endangered species. It’s not just the animals that suffer. Local communities often depend on income from tourists who come to see the wildlife and local rangers also get caught in the crossfire of poachers who sometimes ‘take out’ the rangers before tackling the wildlife.
IFAW has long seen this rising tide of organised poaching sweeping across Africa, driven by consumer demand in Asia and especially China. For many years we have worked closely with the Chinese authorities to reach out to the Chinese middle classes and explain to them through national advertising campaigns that the killing will only come to an end when they stop buying ivory and other illegal wildlife. In Africa, we work closely with governments and agencies like the Kenyan Wildlife Service. We also supply funds for the training and equipping of rangers who protect the animals on the ground.
In the UK, our message that international governments must also act is getting across and I’m very pleased to say that after years of pushing from IFAW and other charities the UK Government has agreed to host an international high level summit. This will come up with determined steps to tackle the huge threat wildlife crime poses to endangered species and the communities that sometimes depend upon them.
The danger is that the summit will be all jaw-jaw and that no concrete steps for coordinated joint governmental action will emerge. To keep up the pressure in the UK, we organised our event in the House of Commons on 27 November to launch the IFAW report ‘Criminal Nature’. Speakers included host Angela Smith MP, Richard Benyon MP and Davyth Stewart from INTERPOL. Around 25 politicians attended and they were all provided with materials that would assist them with publicity in their constituencies – to make sure the issue gets coverage far and wide.
The event was a great success and I was heartened to hear some very positive comments from the speakers about their experiences of working with IFAW. It brought home to me the importance of working jointly to tackle the very serious issue of wildlife crime and how, when we do come together, we can make a real difference for animals. I hope the same spirit is present at the forthcoming London summit.