Decisive momentum in tackling wildlife trafficking for the European Union around World Wildlife Day

Decisive momentum in tackling wildlife trafficking for the European Union around
Monday, 22 February, 2016
Brussels, Belgium

The European Commission launches the European action plan against wildlife trafficking in Brussels on Friday 26th February. In doing so it establishes another front in the global fight against the criminal trade in wildlife products such as elephant ivory, rhino horn, pangolin scales and tiger parts. As one of the world’s most lucrative criminal activities, valued around 15-billion Euros annually, illegal wildlife trade ranks fourth globally in terms of value, behind the trafficking in drugs, people and counterfeiting.

 “This Action Plan will help European countries better fight the criminals who are destroying some of the world’s most vulnerable species, and we are hopeful that our recommendations to the Member States and Commission will be fully incorporated” said Sonja Van Tichelen, IFAW European Regional Director.

The EU is used as both a market and a transit route for the illegal wildlife trade. Europe accounts for around a third of all ivory seizures worldwide, with Belgium, France, Portugal and the UK acting as key transit routes. These countries along with Italy, Netherlands and Spain are noted for their frequent, small scale seizures of ivory 1.

“Wildlife trafficking is not only a serious global environmental crime with profoundly negative impacts for endangered species protection and ecosystem stability, but it is also a real and increasing threat to national, regional and global security.” Ms Van Tichelen continues. “Organised crime groups find wildlife trafficking attractive because of its low risks, high profits and weak penalties. Earnings can amount to well over 1,000 per cent return on investment and the value of some wildlife products is comparable to that of illegal narcotics”.

The launch of the European plan to stop wildlife trafficking happens exactly three months after the official presentation of Larger than elephant, a conservation strategy for Africa by the Commission. This 10 year strategy - drafted by conservation and development experts from groups such as IFAW and the Commission - marks a significant advancement on the EU’s previous support for biodiversity and provides the guidelines for the external element of the action plan to be announced on Friday.

Immediately afterwards, from March 1st to 3rd, the Save Wildlife conference will be held in The Hague, Netherlands. This is an initiative of the Ministry of Economic Affairs of the Netherlands. Falling under the Dutch presidency of the European Union and organized in close cooperation with The Hague Institute for Global Justice and The Prince of Wales’s International Sustainability Unit, the conference will focus on two themes:

  • Sustainable livelihoods and economic development
  • Strengthening law enforcement.

 The Hague Conference will also pay particular attention to the EU Action Plan against Wildlife Trafficking.

This momentum for wildlife will culminate on March, 3rd with the celebration of World Wildlife Day across the world under the moto “The future of wildlife is in our hands”. In his message for World Wildlife Day, John Scanlon, Secretary-General of CITES says: “Wildlife loss threatens our own personal well-being, the livelihoods of local communities and, in some cases, even national economies and security”.  On World Wildlife Day 2016, IFAW will  release the list of young delegates from all over the world who have been chosen to participate in the Youth Forum for People and Wildlife in Johannesburg, South Africa from September 17th to 25th, right before the Conference of the Parties of the CITES (September 24th to October 5th 2016).

Notes to editors

About IFAW

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 Follow us on Facebook and Twitter. Photos are available at

1 According to the Elephant Trade Information System (ETIS)


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Azzedine Downes,IFAW President and CEO
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