EU plans to help fight wildlife crime

“The love for all living creatures is the most noble attribute of man” – Charles Darwin


The Illegal wildlife trade is one of the world’s most lucrative criminal activities, raking in up to £15 billion annually. The only crimes more lucrative are drug trafficking, people trafficking and counterfeiting.

Wildlife trafficking has unmeasured blood on its hands, not just by destroying wildlife but in helping to fund many extremist and militia groups. It is vital for people, as well as the threatened wildlife that this trade comes to an end, soon. Ivory, tiger products, tropical timber, rhino horn and exotic birds are some of the most valuable products on the black market. Live reptiles well as live plants, such as like cacti and orchids are also frequently seized at EU borders.

Recently however, the struggle against wildlife trafficking has been given a much needed boost thanks to the European Union. Europe acts as a large market for wildlife trade, with around a third of all ivory seizures worldwide, with Belgium, France, Portugal and the UK acting as key transit routes. Europe plays a direct role in the market for wild animals and wild animal products, and with so much trading in Europe the EU has the ability to directly tackle the problem.  This has urged the EU to finally set out the important framework to better coordinate the fight against poaching and the illegal wildlife trade. The EU aims change the status of wildlife trafficking to a serious crime, creating much more serious sentences to criminals and put off potential traders. Plans have also been put in place to prevent trafficking, reduce supply and demand for illegal products, combat organised crime and boost cooperation between countries.

In order to address the poaching crisis, which has seen over 1000 anti-poaching rangers killed in the last decade, the UN have created £27 million in additional funding to support the Global Wildlife Programme. On June 10th 2016 national program has increased its funding to a total of £90 million in a total of 19 countries African and Asian countries, increasing from 10.

In Kenya, last April the largest ever burning of ivory hoping to send out a message to criminals by burning 120 metric tons of ivory. Although this does show how seriously the issue is being taken, the very fact that 120 tonnes of ivory was able to be seized shows the true scale of the problem. One of the most serious barriers in tackling wildlife crime is corrupt officials, which are at the heart of wildlife crime in many parts of the world. Mostly in the form of bribery many of the people given the responsibility of reducing poaching and protecting wildlife are being found responsible for aiding the trade. As long as the trade in wildlife product remain profitable, the criminals will hold all the power.

In many African and Asians countries with almost non-existent economies and very few employment opportunities, poaching is often an appealing prospect. Locals can make much more money as a poacher, than they can as an anti-poaching ranger. The average man on the street doesn’t care about the fate of wildlife, he only worries about feeding his family. Should the trend in wildlife products continue it has been predicted that in 25 years, there would be no more elephants or rhinos left in the wild. Hopefully, with initiatives such as the EU has created, criminals will be forced to re-consider whether wildlife trafficking is still a risk worth taking.



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Ben Wright

Ben Wright

I am a consultant ecologist with a special interest in protected species and birds. I have some past experience in science writing. I formally wrote a science column for a local paper, and composed a book based on the column (Science Matters) which has just been published.

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