It’s a day where we can all breathe a huge sigh of relief and have a silent celebration (or perhaps not so silent) as we literally feel a massive weight being lifted from our shoulders. I like to imagine that our hedgehogs are doing a little jig, our raptors are soaring high in the wind and the badgers and foxes of our country are doing a fabulous jive, because, like us, they have heard the news that the wildlife crime unit has been saved!
Recently, there have been rather worrying headlines dominating the wildlife media, all displaying concern at the idea that the National Wildlife Crime Unit could be facing closure. However, yesterday, the government finally decided to announce its decision to award another four years of funding. As we know, the unit is vital when it comes to the protection of our wildlife, with it covering everything from bird of prey persecution to the smuggling of ivory and endangered species. For many, there was a genuine fear that by the end of this month, the wildlife of our country would be without an effective crime investigation unit. However, the environment minister Rory Stewart has announced that this will not be the case.
The government has committed to £1.2 million in funding over the next four years, with DEFRA providing £136,000 each year, with an additional £29,000 to target wildlife crime that is committed online, which is considered a new and a growing ‘market’. The unit will also receive funding from the National Police Chiefs Council, Scottish government and the Northern Ireland administration. So, it is of course with great relief that we hear this news, especially when we consider that activities such as the illegal wildlife trade is worth approximately $10-20 billion annually, making it the most profitable black market, behind drugs, arms and people trafficking.
Although it is a relief to hear this news, it is nothing that our government should be ‘proud’ of per se. When it comes to protecting wildlife, the presence of a successful and fully funded wildlife crime unit should be an essential string to our bow. The very fact that many of us (myself included) were even questioning whether funding would be renewed is rather embarrassing and does not exactly reflect our utter confidence in the ability of the government to protect our wildlife. In a country where we hear news of mass poisonings or shooting of birds of prey, badger baiting, deer poaching, hare coursing and illegal trapping, the protection of our wildlife should be at the forefront of our minds and something that we are constantly striving to achieve. For the next four years, our wildlife can breathe a little easier, but what about in four years time? Will we be having the same uncertainties about wildlife protection, or will the government have come to realise the importance of our natural heritage?
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