With many plant and animal species ‘hanging on by a thread,’ UN urges action to tackle wildlife crime

Wildlife. Credit: UNODC

24 May 2016 – The poaching and illegal trade of thousands of species across the globe present real environmental dangers and undermine the rule of law, the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) said today, urging shared responsibility among the international community in tackling wildlife and forest crime.

Launching its inaugural World Wildlife Crime Report – part of an ongoing Global Programme on Wildlife and Forest Crime – UNODC highlighted that one of the main messages the report aims to convey is that wildlife and forest crime is not limited to certain countries or regions, but is a truly global phenomenon.

“The desperate plight of iconic species at the hands of poachers has deservedly captured the world’s attention, and none too soon. Animals like the tiger, feared and revered throughout human history, are now hanging on by a thread, their dwindling numbers spread across a range of states that are struggling to protect them. African elephants and rhinos are under constant pressure,” said Yury Fedotov, UNODC Executive Director.

“But the threat of wildlife crime does not stop with these majestic animals. One of the critical messages to emerge from this research is that wildlife and forest crime is not limited to certain countries or regions. It is not a trade involving exotic goods from foreign lands being shipped to faraway markets,” he added.

Launched at this week’s Commission on Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice, the report was developed by UNODC with data provided by partner organizations under the International Consortium on Combating Wildlife Crime, including the Secretariat of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), and the World Customs Organization.

The report looks at eight case studies of species products sorted by seven industrial sectors that make use of wild sourced materials across the world. It builds on information taken from World WISE, a recently unveiled data platform that contains more than 164,000 seizures related to wildlife crime from 120 countries.

One of the key observations that the database illustrates is the extreme diversity of the illegal activity: nearly 7,000 species are included in the seizures, yet no single one represents more than 6 per cent of the total, nor does a single country constitute the source of more than 15 per cent of the seized shipments, UNODC said.

“This comprehensive global report is rooted in the best data and case studies available, is backed by in-depth analysis, and demonstrates a heightened sense of rigor in the way in which we report on wildlife crime,” emphasized CITES Secretary-General John E. Scanlon.

“The World Wildlife Crime Report shows the extensive involvement of transnational organized criminal groups in these highly destructive crimes and the pervasive impact of corruption, demonstrating that combating wildlife crime warrants even greater attention and resources at all levels,” he added.

The report includes an analysis of legal and illegal markets of wildlife and forest products, which UNODC said can be useful in addressing vulnerabilities in the legal trade and promote better global regulatory systems. It also highlights how gaps in legislation, law enforcement and criminal justice systems present serious issues.

“If we want to get serious about wildlife and forest crime, we must shore up our collective responses and close these gaps,” said Mr. Fedotov, noting that as with all forms of organized crime and trafficking, criminals will always look to exploit systems where they can.

The report, through analysis of trade sectors, markets and representative case studies, also sheds light on seven specific areas to illustrate the scale of wildlife and forest crime: seafood; pets, zoos and breeding; food, medicine and tonics; art, décor and jewellery; cosmetics and perfume; fashion; and furniture.


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