Partner spotlight: INTERPOL leads the way in the fight against wildlife crime
I am writing to you from an international meeting of law enforcers in Bangkok, Thailand. The delegates have come together from different corners of the globe to tackle wildlife crime. The presenters have shown extremely distressing footage of live animals being trafficked across the world as well as seemingly endless pictures of poached tigers, butchered elephants and slaughtered rhinos. The illicit trade in ivory and rhino horn and the threat to tigers posed by poaching is enormous.
The good news is that INTERPOL has brought together police, customs and NGOs so we can combat the cruel and damaging trade in wildlife. This is the 23rd Meeting of the INTERPOL Wildlife Crime Working Group and the International Fund for Animal Welfare has been given an invaluable platform to present our work, concerns and recommendations to global law enforcers.
Our Asia Regional Director, Grace Gabriel, gave presentations on IFAW's enforcement efforts including an array of INTERPOL projects supported by IFAW. In addition Grace was able to highlight that the Internet, as the world’s biggest shop window, is providing another unregulated means for criminals to profit from killing and selling wildlife.
Grace told the room of enforcers that IFAW has been surveying the online trade in wildlife since 2004 and we have been astounded by the quantity of items available online, nearly all of which have no reference to legality or the website policy, which in some instances actually bans the trade in certain products such as ivory.
Our China office has worked with the Chinese government and this has resulted in a dramatic crackdown on sites based in that country selling ivory and other wildlife. In some instances the trade temporarily stopped altogether, but we must remain vigilant against traders who will try to use the Internet as a platform for business in future.
We were very pleased that a number of new countries approached us saying that they would like to carry out online investigations off the back of our work. I was even told that IFAW's report called 'Caught in the Web' has led to an improvement in laws governing the trade of wildlife online in the Czech Republic.
Sadly this illegal trade in wildlife destroys human as well as animal lives. Bill Clarke, from INTERPOL, opened one session with the tragic announcement that a Kenyan ranger in his 40s had recently been shot and killed while he was working to protect elephants and other wildlife. As Bill said it's important to stress that the human cost of this business is growing.
This international illegal crime in wildlife poses risks to our environmental security and means our children could be facing a world without tigers and rhinos. It is encouraging to learn of the incredible efforts to stamp out wildlife trade being undertaken by countries such as the conference’s host nation Thailand.
INTERPOL is leading the way through Operation PREDATOR, joining up policing and customs efforts to protect the world’s few remaining tigers, and Operation WISDOM fighting against the illegal trade in ivory and rhino horn.
IFAW is pleased to be in a position to support Project WISDOM, and associated Operations, as it is this, alongside our consumer awareness work, that will ensure these charismatic animals are protected for future generations.