Fighting wildlife crime in the UK

Think twice before you bring home a wildlife souvenir.US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton put the fight against wildlife crime on a global stage at a US State Department event on November 8.

Clinton spelt out the shocking impact the poaching crisis is having on global security, wildlife and people when she stated “we are increasingly seeing wildlife trafficking has serious implications for the security and prosperity of people around the world.

Local populations that depend on wildlife, either for tourism or sustenance, are finding it harder and harder to maintain their livelihoods. Diseases are spreading to new corners of the globe through wildlife that is not properly inspected at border crossings. Park rangers are being killed. And we have good reason to believe that rebel militias are players in a worldwide ivory market worth millions and millions of dollars a year.”

That’s pretty hard-hitting stuff. Sadly at the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) we are all too aware of the brutal reality of wildlife crime, which causes terrible animal and human suffering just to provide some people with luxury items or so that wild animals can be kept as pets. 

Earlier this year I was lucky enough to be able to see elephants in the wild in Africa, but this brought home to me even more the horror of the suffering many elephants undergo at the hands of poachers, which distressingly we hear regular reports of. In Cameroon at the beginning of 2012, hundreds of elephants were killed by horseback bandits using military-style ammunition.

Some animals had their tusks hacked off while they were still alive while it is believed that other elephants were killed when they returned to mourn their dead.

In the past month I learnt that three elephants from Amboseli National Park, the very park I had visited in Kenya, had just been slaughtered by poachers, leaving an orphaned elephant that was found next to her dead mother.

It’s hard to stomach isn’t it? And all of this killing is just for some ivory trinkets.

So what is IFAW doing to stamp out wildlife crime, including the illegal ivory trade? I am proud to say we are on the frontline providing resources, training and equipment for law enforcers and rangers to safeguard elephants where they live while simultaneously working to reduce demand for these products in China and other Far Eastern countries.

It’s not just about fighting wildlife crime in far flung regions of the world though. We need to win the battle at home in the UK which is why IFAW is working with the Government, politicians, police, customs, Internet companies and other organisations to make sure that Britain and Europe are no longer a market or a transit route for wildlife and wildlife products.

How are we doing this in real terms? We gave both oral and written evidence to the parliamentary committee reviewing the enforcement of wildlife crime in the UK. As a result of this review the committee recommended that the Government provide long-term funding for the National Wildlife Crime Unit (NWCU), a police-led unit that conducts investigations and provides intelligence to help stop wildlife crime.

Thousands of our supporters have taken our action, lobbying their Members of Parliament to support this call for funding. And thousands more supporters contacted their candidates in the run-up to the recent Police and Crime Commissioners elections asking them to sign IFAW’s pledge to fight wildlife crime in their areas.

Some candidates reported that they received more correspondence on wildlife crime than any other issues with a third of candidates signing our pledge.

IFAW is also keen to provide practical support for enforcement measures and this was demonstrated at the recent National Wildlife Crime police conference where IFAW hosted a workshop, alongside UK Border Force and the NWCU, on investigating the online trade in ivory.

With your help we will keep fighting the battle against wildlife crime. As Hillary Clinton recently said “over the past few years wildlife trafficking has become more organised, more lucrative, more widespread, and more dangerous than ever before."


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Azzedine Downes,IFAW President and CEO
President and Chief Executive Officer
Céline Sissler-Bienvenu, Director, France and Francophone Africa
Director, France and Francophone Africa
Dr. Elsayed Ahmed Mohamed, Regional Director, Middle East and North Africa
Regional Director, Middle East and North Africa
Dr. Maria (Masha) N. Vorontsova, Senior Advisor to the IFAW Marine Conservation
Senior Advisor to the IFAW Marine Conservation Program
Faye Cuevas, Esq.
Senior Vice President
Grace Ge Gabriel, Regional Director, Asia
Regional Director, Asia
Executive Vice President
Executive Vice President
Matt Collis, Director, International Policy
Director, International Policy
Pauline Verheij, Program Manager, Wildlife Crime
Program Manager, Wildlife Crime
Rikkert Reijnen, Program Director, Wildlife Crime
Program Director, Wildlife Crime
Country Representative, Germany
Country Representative, Germany
Staci McLennan, Director, EU Office
Director, EU Office
Tania McCrea-Steele, Project Lead, Global Wildlife Cybercrime
Project Lead, Global Wildlife Cybercrime
Vivek Menon, Director of IFAW partner, Wildlife Trust of India
Consulting Senior Advisor to the CEO on Strategic Partnerships & Philanthropy