Illegal wildlife trade threatens national security
- Published on Wednesday, 12 December 2012 11:02
- Posted by Vicki Mitchem
Today WWF will present United Nations ambassadors with a report highlighting the seriousness of the illicit trade in threatened wildlife – a trade now thought to be the fourth largest global illegal trade after drugs, counterfeiting, and human trafficking.
The new report, Fighting illicit wildlife trafficking: A consultation with governments, conducted by global advisory group Dalberg on behalf of WWF, will be unveiled today at a briefing in New York.
Besides driving many endangered species towards extinction, wildlife trafficking strengthens criminal networks, undermines national security, and poses increasing risks to global health, according to the report.
Jim Leape, Director General of WWF-International said: "Wildlife crime has escalated alarmingly in the past decade. It is driven by global crime syndicates, and so we need a concentrated global response.
"It is communities, often the world's poorest, that lose the most from this illicit trade, while criminal gangs and corrupt officials profit. Frontline rangers are losing their lives and families that depend on natural resources are losing their livelihoods," Leape said.
Numerous interviews with governments and international organisations, detailed in the report, suggest that the involvement of organised criminal syndicates and rebel groups in wildlife crimes is increasing. Yet many interviewees stressed that illegal wildlife trade is not treated as a transnational crime and justice issue by governments. Heather Sohl, species expert for WWF-UK said:
"We cannot fight this battle alone. This report goes to show that this is no longer just an environmental concern – it needs organisations and government departments to work together to find solutions that meet the complex challenges presented by the growing trade in threatened wildlife."
This year has seen the highest levels of rhino poaching in South Africa since records began – a shocking 588 were poached by 27 November 2012, compared to only 13 in 2007 when the poaching began to escalate dramatically. In the UK, there have been an increasing number of reports of rhino horn thefts from national museums;  likely due to the fact that the black market value of rhino horn has soared.
"The demand for illegal wildlife products has risen in step with economic growth in consumer countries, and with the 'easy money' and high profits to be made from trafficking, organised criminals have seized the opportunity to profit," said Steven Broad, Executive Director of TRAFFIC, the wildlife trade monitoring network.
WWF hopes that ambassadors to the UN missions briefing today in New York will raise the wildlife trafficking issue with their governments, in order for it to be addressed as a matter of urgency. Government officials in this report say that a systematic approach is needed to fight illicit wildlife trafficking including greater resourcing, inter-ministerial cooperation, and the use of modern intelligence-led investigative techniques to identify and prosecute wildlife criminals.