France, Germany, Spain: over 1,7 tons of ivory seized throughout the EU since April EU Environment Ministers urged to endorse and implement Action Plan on Wildlife Trafficking

Thursday, 9 June, 2016
Brussels, Belgium

Over the past three weeks, French and German customs authorities have seized respectively 350kg and 625kg of illegal ivory. In April, the Spanish Civil Guard seized 744kg of ivory. These three seizures, amounting to more than 1,7 tons, are a reminder of the urgent need to implement a coordinated European policy to end the trafficking of ivory, and more globally of endangered wildlife. Thus, IFAW calls European Environment Ministers to support and adopt the EU action plan against wildlife trafficking, during the next European Council on 20 June.

« These three seizures demonstrate once again that Europe is implicated in the ivory black market, either as a transit zone between Africa and Asia or as a consumer market and that coordinated action in Europe is needed », underscores Sonja Van Tichelen, IFAW Director for the EU.

On May 20th, German customs authorities confiscated 625kg of ivory, held in 11 boxes heading to Vietnam. The source of this ivory is still being analysed at the moment.

On May 25th, in France, the French national judicial customs (SNDJ) department seized more than 212 kg of ivory from an international firm selling diverse products and antiques, based in the suburbs of Paris. The company’s director, who is also the head of a criminal gang specialised in wildlife trafficking, was arrested and incarcerated. As the investigation continues, this seizure remains the most important ever realised by customs authorities since December 2006.

On June 1st, customs officials at Roissy airport caught a man, coming from Angola and going to Vietnam, who was importing 26 pieces of elephant tusks, that is 142 kg of ivory, hidden in his six checked-in luggage bags. Brought up to immediate trial on 3rd June 2016, the perpetrator was incarcerated and condemned to an 18 month prison sentence in addition to a fine of 142, 480 euros as well as the confiscation of the ivory in question.

« This is an exemplary conviction, which sends a strong message from the French judiciary authorities to those who traffic in endangered wildlife », as Sonja Van Tichelen clarifies. « Nonetheless, cracking down on endangered wildlife trade must stem from a shared European will. The EU action plan offers a framework for a more strategic and coordinated approach ».

The EU Action Plan against Wildlife Trafficking was published by the European Commission last February. Notably, it defines wildlife trafficking as a serious crime and sets forth the framework for better implementation of laws and greater cooperation between police forces and governmental agencies, within a country as well as with their foreign counterparts. It also urges member states to build their own National plan against Wildlife Trafficking.

Private sector initiatives are also needed. IFAW welcomes the adoption of a Resolution on June 2nd by the International Air Transport Association (IATA). The resolution condemns wildlife trafficking and pleads for a stronger partnership with States and conservation organisations to arrest traffickers and asking for policies as well as procedures capable of discouraging this traffic.

The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) released last month its inaugural report on wildlife crime throughout the world. The report gives an overview of seizures from 120 countries and sheds light on « the way poaching and illegal trade of thousands of different species throughout the world cause real environmental dangers, as well as threaten in the long run the rule of law by potentially fostering conflict. »

Ségolène Royal, the French Minister of the Environment, Energy and the Sea, announced last month her decision to adopt a full ban on ivory trade in France, declaring that she would encourage her European counterparts to do the same.

Most illegal ivory is destined for Asia, in particular China, where it has soared in value as an investment vehicle and is coveted as “white gold”.

The 2013 IFAW report, Criminal Nature: The Global Security Implications of the Illegal Wildlife Trade, documents the threat the illegal wildlife trade poses to elephants, rhinos and people. 

 

About IFAW (The International Fund for Animal Welfare)

Founded in 1969, IFAW rescues and protects animals around the world. With projects in more than 40 countries, IFAW rescues individual animals, works to prevent cruelty to animals, and advocates for the protection of wildlife and habitats. For more information, visit www.ifaw.org. Follow us on Facebook and Twitter.

 

 

 

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Céline Sissler-Bienvenu, IFAW France & francophone Africa
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