Outrage at Plans to Axe Met’s Wildlife Crime Unit

Monday, February 19, 2007
United Kingdom
The UK’s leading conservation groups are calling on the Mayor Ken Livingstone to safeguard the future of London’s specialist wildlife crime unit – along with that of endangered species around the world. The future of the unit, which has successfully seized over 30,000 endangered species products in the past 10 years, hangs in the balance due to proposed policing budget cuts.
IFAW (International Fund for Animal Welfare - www.ifaw.org), WWF, ACAP and the David Shepherd Wildlife Foundation have written to the Mayor who sets the budget for the Metropolitan Police Authority. The budget for the Wildlife Crime Unit is £80,000 a year – a drop in the ocean compared to the overall Metropolitan Police Authority budget of £2.5 billion.
 
Heather Sohl, species and trade officer at WWF, said: “London is one of the biggest centres of wildlife trade in the world. We must curb the demand for illegal wildlife products in the capital not only to help protect endangered species but the anti poaching officers worldwide who put their lives on the line to stamp out this trade..”
                                         
Goods which have been seized by the Wildlife Crime Unit include items made from tigers, rhinos, bears, elephants, reptiles and musk deer. As well as prosecuting wildlife criminals and running crime prevention campaigns, it serves as a model for enforcement officials in China, India and other countries with problematic trade in wildlife. Investigations into wildlife crime often uncover other criminal activities, including drugs and organised crime.
 
Robbie Marsland, UK Director of IFAW, said: “The illegal trade in wildlife is second only to the illicit trade in drugs and arms, yet it receives a fraction of the resources. London is a significant market for endangered species products, and we fear closing the Wildlife Crime Unit would send a green light to criminals that the capital is open for business as usual.”
 
Last November, a new initiative called Operation Charm – a partnership between the Wildlife Crime Unit, the Greater London Authority and NGOs* - was launched to crack down on illegal wildlife trade with the initial focus on Traditional Chinese Medicines. A number of seizures and prosecutions have already been made by the Wildlife Crime Unit under the initiative.

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