Just days before UK Prime Minister David Cameron’s landmark Conference on Illegal Wildlife Trade, the London-based Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA) has set out the key actions it believes are essential to tackle the international organised criminal networks plundering the environment.
Drawing on 30 years of experience at the front lines of wildlife crime, a new EIA report released today, In Cold Blood – Combating organised wildlife crime, examines wildlife crime case histories and highlights the crucial lessons to be learnt for better enforcement and conservation.
EIA Lead Campaigner Debbie Banks urged: “This is a critical watershed. There have been lots of promises in the past but not enough investment where it’s needed. It’s time for governments to walk the walk, not just talk the talk about enforcement against organised wildlife crime.
“With Prime Minister Cameron bringing some major world leaders to the table to focus on this issue, there is a real opportunity for a meaningful legacy of action arising from the London Conference.
“It is our profound hope that the UK will demonstrate bold leadership at this global event and forge a consensus to take urgent action.”
The London Conference takes place as threatened species are being impacted by international wildlife crime in a tragic repeat of history – experts estimate as many as 50,000 elephants are being poached every year, and 2013 saw more than 1,000 rhino poached in South Africa; with fewer than 3,500 wild tigers left, efforts to end trade must be escalated.
The products of animal species both iconic and obscure – and often endangered – are much sought after by wealthy consumers in China and elsewhere for everything from luxury home décor, bribes and prestigious gifts to ingredients in traditional medicines.
The illegal wildlife trade is worth many billions a year and sustains organised crime, fuels corruption and conflict, and finances other forms of serious crime – yet it typically carries few risks of detection, prosecution and sanction.
In Cold Blood urges governments to adopt and enact a variety of actions to strengthen domestic legal frameworks, build effective enforcement, dismantle international wildlife crime networks and supress demand.
“There’s a lot more that can be done to reverse the low-risk/high-profit nature of wildlife crime. There are also two very simple but bold moves that parties to the London Conference can take right now to show they are serious,” added EIA Executive Director Mary Rice.
“First, they and the UK can destroy stockpiles of ivory, rhino horn and tiger parts and products not required for prosecution or law enforcement training.
“Secondly, they can embrace a policy of zero tolerance towards all trade – and that includes legal domestic trades as well as all illegal international trade so that this time, enforcement and demand reduction campaigns stand a chance of success.”