Wildlife trade. It’s deadly, It’s everywhere. And it’s big, big business.

IFAW CEO Fred O'Regan speaks with delegates at the 2010 INTERPOL conference in Lyon, France.

Wildlife trade. It's deadly, It's everywhere. And it's big, big business.

I was recently asked to present a keynote address at the Interpol Conference on Environmental Crime in Lyon and a major focus of the conference was how to work together to fight against the increasing prevalence of organized crime networks behind environmental crime.

According to the Congressional Quarterly published just last week, illegal wildlife trade is worth $20 billion annually: the article highlights just how insidious this trade is, and the world's wildlife is paying the price - with extinction in some cases.

IFAW has been working with governments around the world to provide training to assist with the capture and conviction of wildlife traffickers, and this is leading to improvements in enforcement, but increasingly it is the syndicates behind the scenes that are the key targets.

Poaching is no longer the domain of small, independent bands of criminals seeking a quick dollar. It is a high tech, highly organized and well financed operation.

To get to the ringleaders we need to work together in ways that we could never have envisaged in the past. It will take the ongoing commitment of governments, collaborative international enforcement efforts, NGO cooperation, combined with unprecedented public education working towards demand reduction. This is the reason why IFAW has partnered with Interpol.

We also must make wildlife products unfashionable.

I know that whenever I tell people there are only 3,000 tigers left in the wild - without exception they are horrified.

And yet just two weeks ago, Interpol arrested 25 individuals across six countries (China, India, Nepal, Russia, Thailand and Vietnam) and seized more than 50kg of tiger bone - including skeletons and skulls.

This is one of the reasons I, and my IFAW colleagues from tiger range states (China, India, and Russia), will be attending a gathering of some of the key governments and organizations working to save tigers in St Petersburg next month.

Prime Minister Vladimir Putin of Russia is taking a leadership role in hosting the summit - bringing together delegations from tiger range states and working with organizations such as the World Bank and animal welfare and conservation groups including IFAW.

We must come together to stop all trade in tigers if we are to save them.

I am hopeful this Summit will result in genuine commitments to protect the last remaining wild tigers.

- Fred

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For more information on IFAW efforts to stem wildlife trade, visit http://ifaw.org.

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