Wild for life – zero tolerance for the illegal wildlife trade

Image: Geoff Livingston

This year the UN’s World Environment Day aims to raise awareness and promote action on the illegal trade in wildlife. Wildlife crime has pushed certain subspecies of tiger, elephant, rhino, ape, turtle and leopard, among others, to the brink of extinction. In October 2015 we ran an event on Wildlife crime and international security: strengthening law enforcement which explored not only how wildlife crime affects the survival of wildlife, but also how the trade in illegal wildlife can lead to corruption, undermine local communities and institutions and subvert the rule of law. We convened key stakeholders – traditional wildlife authorities, law enforcement, financial anti-crime units, intelligence, and conservation communities – with the aim of establishing the best ways of policing this destructive trade.

Several key points emerged from this event:

  • To prioritise and treat wildlife trafficking as a serious crime, all countries should consider criminalising it, improving the certainty of conviction and appropriateness of punishment. Additionally, the risk of detection to traffickers and the certainty of punishment should be increased. This can partly be achieved by better coordination of security at ports, airports and borders by industry, customs and law enforcement
  • Information sharing and data collection can be improved at all levels, with more standardised collection of data and further cooperation in terms of sharing data being key
  • Law enforcement needs tools to do their job well. Law enforcement could be strengthened by building capacity in terms of data sharing, technology, staff and resources. There is also a need for the professionalisation of police. Wildlife trafficking is closely linked to money laundering, corruption, organised crime and other illicit markets. Bodies tackling these activities may be able to provide other tools to help combat wildlife crime and give examples of best practice/success. The use of financial tools to help law enforcement investigations on wildlife crime is needed
  • Though there are numerous collaborative initiatives taking place, further efforts could be made to include private sector actors, local NGOs and representatives from a wider range of developing countries as well as to improve communication and coordination to avoid duplication.
  • There have been very high level political commitments made by government officials, celebrities and other stakeholders to galvanise global attention, we are at a critical point in time of action and follow-through of the political commitments.

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