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Tackling Global Wildlife Crime

By Emma McNeil - 25 Nov 2010 15:5:1 GMT
Tackling Global Wildlife Crime

At this week's International Tiger Forum in Saint Petersburg an important alliance was formed that will help not just tigers but a range of endangered species across the globe. A Letter of Understanding signed at the Forum brings into effect the International Consortium on Combating Wildlife Crime (ICCWC).

The document was signed by the heads of five major international agencies: the Secretary-General of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), the Secretary-General of ICPO-INTERPOL, the Executive Director of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), the President of the World Bank and the Secretary-General of the World Customs Organization (WCO).

The Letter of Understanding outlines how the ICCWC will work against the illegal and unnecessary poaching, smuggling and trade in endangered species. It outlines a strategy which includes inter-agency cooperation and encouraging the involvement of regional law enforcement agencies.

It also acknowledges that strategies to tackle wildlife crime must also take into account human poverty and suffering and should aim to encourage a positive view of conservation in local communities. But, foremost is the message that the world now takes wildlife crime seriously and the perpetrators (who are often part of significant criminal organisations) will face opposition. 

John Scanlon, CITES Secretary-General, said: "ICCWC sends a very clear message that a new era of wildlife law enforcement is upon us, one where wildlife criminals will face a determined and coordinated opposition, rather than the current situation where the risks of detection and of facing penalties that match their crimes are often low. Poaching and illegal trade have brought wild tigers close to the point of no return. Only if we work together, can we ensure that tigers will survive. Our children should inherit the privilege of looking at tigers in the wild and not only behind bars in a zoo. Instead, it is those criminals who poach and smuggle tigers that should be the ones behind bars."

Ronald K. Noble of Interpol emphasised the serious stance his organisation takes on wildlife crime: "The threat of wildlife and environmental crime is one which is taken very seriously by INTERPOL... Environmental crime is global theft and as the world's largest police organization INTERPOL is committed, with the support of each of our 188 member countries, to build on the work already being done in protecting our planet for future generations."

Wildlife crime is thought to be a significant factor in the decline in a number of species, including the tiger. In recent years wildlife crime has become even more sophisticated and increasingly powerful criminal organisations are involved.

In March CITES warned that the Internet and communication technologies were increasingly being exploited by these groups and that those hoping to fight wildlife crime needed to respond to this change, as well as using new communications technology to facilitate legal trade and help consumers stay within the law.

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Topics: Wildlife / Endangered Species