EU and China sign landmark agreement, join together to fight illegal wildlife trade
The EU and China have signed a landmark agreement to join forces to help combat the illegal trade in wildlife products.
The agreement, signed by the European Commissioner for the Environment, Janus Potocnik, and the Chinese Environment Protection Minister, Zhou Shengxian, brings together two of the largest markets for wildlife products such as ivory and rhino horn.
As if to underline the point Czech authorities have just made the largest ever seizure of rhino horn in the EU.
Trafficking is at its highest level for decades, and is posing a real and increasing threat to human welfare and national, regional and global security. Revenues generated by Trafficking of Endangered Species (TES) are estimated at 18 to 26 billion Euros per year and according to Europol’s 2013 Serious and Organised Crime Threat Assessment (SOCTA) report, the trafficking in endangered species is a niche market attracting highly specialised Organised Crime Groups (OCGs). The report also points out that a perception of low risk and high profitability associated with this crime area is likely to continue to attract interest from OCGs.
The EU/China agreement aims to forge stronger ties against wildlife trafficking between the two regions through the exchange of information and enforcement, particularly illegal products traded from Africa to China via Europe.
The scale of the trade through Europe was highlighted recently by a recent report which showed that a total of 967 seizure records were reported by 17 EU Member States in 2012. Of these, 799 seizure records could be classified as “international”, i.e. relating to shipments involving external or third countries and so took place at EU external borders, with China the leading destination for items seized.
The International Fund for Animal Welfare welcomes this agreement and hopes that both China and the EU will continue to increase the efforts to stop this trafficking. However, this is only one part of the solution. Both the EU and China must provide support to African countries that are on the front line of the poaching crisis and do more to help reduce the demand for these products.
The scale of the problem in Africa was made clear in May 2012 by then Kenya Wildlife Service director Julius Kipng’etich who stated “Poached ivory travels through the same channels as drugs and people who are being trafficked. Terrorist organisations like al-Shabab have been linked to poaching in Kenya.”
The strength of his words highlighted the challenges African countries are facing.
The time has come for European governments to treat this crime with the seriousness it deserves. Wildlife trafficking is not only a serious global environmental crime with profoundly negative impacts for endangered species protection, but it is also a real threat to national and global security.
The EU has the means; it just needs the will to use them. This is why IFAW is campaigning for the EU to use the next European Development Fund and its security instruments to provide the resources and intelligence needed to combat this crime.
IFAW is playing its part by training the rangers and enforcers, and providing them with the vital equipment they need to keep pace with the poachers. To date, IFAW has trained over 1600 wildlife law enforcement officials in over 50 countries in Africa, the Caribbean, the Middle East and Asia. IFAW is also working to reduce demand by educating buyers about the source of wildlife products. But only concerted and coordinated government action can help put an end to this crisis.
So whist we welcome this decision, we know that there is much more work that needs to be done. We therefore call on China and the EU to continue down the path they have joined today, and help put an end to the crisis that is besetting the world’s animals.