Wildlife Trafficking: WWF calls for urgent action by Member States
The EU is both a major destination and a transit point in the global wildlife trade. All EU Member States and the European Union are Parties to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of wild fauna and flora (CITES), the international treaty which regulates global wildlife trade. CITES is implemented in the EU via a set of EU Wildlife Trade Regulations. However, poor implementation of the existing EU regulations on wildlife trade in some Member States leaves EU borders porous to illegal trade activities.
The EU Action Plan aims at increasing the effectiveness of the EU policy and actions against wildlife trafficking, in order to reduce wildlife trafficking levels both globally and in the EU. It will establish a strategic framework and propose a range of actions against wildlife trafficking.
WWF expects the Action Plan to address the following priorities:
- Preventing wildlife trafficking for example by supporting actions to reduce demand in wildlife products within and outside the EU.
- Strengthening enforcement and the fight against organised wildlife crime for example by increasing capacity and cooperation among enforcement agencies.
- Building a global partnership against illegal wildlife trafficking using diplomatic tools and international cooperation.
WWF’s calls on the EU:
- to combat wildlife crime more effectively in source, transit and consumer states;
- to improve European cross-border cooperation, capacity and expertise;
- to harmonise sanctions across the EU, in particular qualifying wildlife trafficking involving organised criminal groups as a serious crime with maximum penalties of at least four years jail as called for under the UN Convention against Transnational Organized Crime;
- and – above all – to raise sufficient political will and adequate financial resources in order to address the gravity of the problem.
Geneviève Pons, Director of WWF European Policy Office, said:
“Every year, tonnes of wild plants and animals illegally cross EU borders. Whilst we applaud the European Commission’s strong commitment to stop illegal trafficking, the onus is now on the Member States to make this happen. They must live up to their responsibilities to police wildlife trade and enforce meaningful sanctions to punish criminals. Wildlife crime is not just a threat to numerous species, it also undermines the rule of law, good governance, the well-being of local communities, and sustainable development.”
WWF will analyse the Action Plan once published and send recommendations to the Council and the European Parliament.
Council conclusions are expected to be adopted at the Environment Council in June 2016. The European Parliament is also expected to adopt a position on the basis of the Commission Action Plan, through an own initiative report.
Notes to the editor - Facts & Figures:
- Wildlife crime is estimated to be the 4th largest transnational organised crime after trafficking in drugs, humans and counterfeit goods (Source: Global Financial Integrity 2011). It is not just a threat to numerous species, it also threatens rule of law, good governance, well-being of local communities, and sustainable development.
- The role of organized criminal groups in wildlife trafficking within the EU is increasing, based on the expectation of high profitability with low risk of detection and low sanction levels (Source: Europol: EU Serious and Organized Threat Assessment)
- Around 30,000 elephants are poached each year in Africa for their ivory (estimate based on data from ‘Monitoring Illegal Killing of Elephants’ - CITES Programme)
- The value of rhino horn at the black market has risen above the price of gold (Europol: Threat Assessment 2013 - Environmental Crime in the EU), and 2015 was a record year in Africa for rhino poaching (Source: TRAFFIC)
- While the focus is usually on elephants, rhinos and other iconic species, wildlife crime threatens the survival of a wide array of animals and plants including European protected species such as songbirds and eels.
- See also Wildlife trade in the European Union (TRAFFIC briefing paper, March 2014)
WWF European Policy Office
tel +32 473 947 966
Emilie van der Henst
EU Development Policy and Funding Officer
WWF European Policy Office
tel +32 485 332 759