Animal traffickers woke up last week to some bad news. Their low risk, high profit operation has just been dealt a massive blow by the US House of Representatives which has passed the The Global Anti-Poaching Act and placed the trade in illegal animal goods in the same category as drugs and weapons smuggling. Whilst many proclaim many this to be a monumental piece of legislation in the fight against wildlife crime, some are stating that it doesn’t go far enough to limit the biodiversity loss witnessed due to the wildlife trade.
During the summer of 2015 the Cecil the Lion fiasco caused everyone with a social media account to suddenly became very aware that some wild species are hunted for sport, the main example is unfortunately lions which has further implications for the illicit lion bone trade which is growing in Asia. As a society we are also become more self aware of the poaching crisis which elephants and rhinos are currently threatened with. 10,000 elephants (a quarter of the global population) where poached between 2010 and 2012.
Thus with dramatic increases in poaching acts (10,000 elephants (a quarter of the global population) where poached between 2010 and 2012); pressure has accumulated enough for politicians to come together and create the Global-Anti Poaching Act. This will aim to make it easier to prosecute wildlife trafficking cases as well as hand out tougher penalties for offences.
It is becoming increasingly recognised that it is large international crime syndicates responsible for the majority of wildlife trafficking. TRAFFIC estimates that the illegal wildlife trade is worth hundreds of millions of dollars at a minimum, so it is easy to see why criminal gangs have pounced upon this opportunity as other enterprises such as weapons smuggling have become harder to do. Yet it is believed that the same gangs smuggling wildlife parts are also smuggling weapons and drugs across international borders; the latter two of which were previously much harder to do and carried stricter penalties. So how far will this Act be a deterrent for the gangs?Hopefully the risk will now outweigh the profit on illegal wildlife parts.
This is no doubt a piece of landmark legislation as it takes the first step towards preventing the illegal wildlife trade. However there is one firm criticism surrounding it. More must be done about the legal wildlife trade. Dr Pieter Kat, a director at Lion Aid said; “Whilst we certainly applaud this new initiative, we would strongly urge that the “legal” trade is much more closely scrutinized in terms of its contribution to the overall decline in lions and other trophy hunted species.”
Featured Image by Simon Milledge / TRAFFIC
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