Rhino with its horn sawn off for protection. The report says profits from wildlife trafficking are used to “purchase weapons, finance civil conflicts and underwrite terrorist-related activities.” It adds that “the involvement of organized crime syndicates and rebel groups in wildlife crimes is increasing.” Photo by Rhett Butler.
Illegal wildlife trafficking is a $19 billion-a-year business, making it the fourth largest illicit market after drugs, counterfeiting, and human trafficking, yet efforts to control it are “failing”, asserts a new report commissioned by WWF.
The report, titled Fighting illicit wildlife trafficking: A consultation with governments, is based on structured interviews with government officials and international agencies. It says that while there is widespread acknowledgment that wildlife trafficking is a problem — the report makes a case that it is a threat to local economies, national security, and global health — governments are failing to take effective action. There are many reasons for this: trafficking is seen as an environmental problem, rather than a strategic issue; there is lack of coordination between source and consumer countries; kingpins often escape prosecution; and too little is known market trends.
The report thus calls for governments to “recognize the threat posed by illicit wildlife trafficking to their own sovereignty and the need to treat this crime equally and in coordination with efforts to halt other forms of illegal traffi cking, corruption and money laundering.” It says the the problem should be addressed by “multiple ministries
in a coordinated manner”.
“Governments need to address wildlife crime as a matter of urgency,” said Jim Leape, Director General of WWF International, in a statement. “It is not just a matter of environmental protection, but also of national security. It is time to put a stop to this profound threat to the rule of law.”
The report lays out a series of recommendations for boosting the effectiveness of efforts to fight wildlife trafficking, including increasing collaboration between countries; better engaging public and private sectors; tackling supply and demand simultaneously; and focusing on the “organized criminal nature” of the trade.
“Wildlife crime has escalated alarmingly in the past decade. It is driven by global crime syndicates, and so we need a concentrated global response,” said Leape.
“Drug and human traffic are getting a lot more attention than illicit wildlife trafficking. And just as we need to intensify our efforts to combat drug trade and human trafficking, we also need to intensify our efforts to combat illicit wildlife trafficking,” added Robert Hormats, Under-Secretary for Economic Growth, Energy and the Environment, U.S. Department of State, in a statement. “They all need to be addressed through bold and consistent actions by the international community.”