European Parliament takes important step to combat Wildlife Crime

An important motion for a Resolution on Wildlife Crime was approved by the European Parliament on 15 January, with 647 positive votes, 14 against and no abstentions. The Resolution calls for measures against wildlife crime, placing it on the same level as human trafficking and drug trafficking. IUCN welcomes the Resolution and is ready to provide scientific support and engage with related European Institutions,but also calls for inclusion of the crucial role of local communities and sustainable use for effective conservation.

Items seized by UK Border Force in 2012

Wildlife crime, including poaching, illegal harvesting, transitioning of illegal wildlife products and derivatives, as well as illegal commerce and use of those products, has become a serious trans-nationally organised criminal business. It represents the fourth largest illegal activity in the world after drug trafficking, counterfeiting and human trafficking. The welfare of animals is sidelined, which ultimately impacts the conservation of the species concerned, putting whole ecosystems at risk.

The European Parliament recognizes that wildlife trafficking is a serious economic, national security and environmental threat, which counters legislation and prevents sustainable development. Therefore, a coordinated global response between national and international enforcement agencies at the highest political level is needed. 

The adopted motion for a Resolution, which is non-binding, calls for renewed action by EU Member States to stop the crisis through restrictions on trafficking of wildlife goods. In the motion, the European Commission is urged to establish an EU plan of action against illegal wildlife trade, supporting wildlife law enforcement in range states and assisting them in fighting organised poaching and trafficking; it should also include the promotion of demand-reduction campaigns to black-list illegal products. The European Commission has announced that it will publish a Communication on Wildlife crime in the first quarter of 2014.

IUCN supports these important elements of the motion for Resolution, as it has strong conservation benefits. However, in order to ensure a well-balanced position on this subject, IUCN recommends that EU institutions acknowledge the role that well-managed, sustainable use and trade can play in promoting effective wildlife conservation and species recovery; including for example, the South American vicuña and many crocodilian species

Luc Bas, Director of the IUCN EU Representative Office said: "The motion is an important step forward in the fight against wildlife trafficking, but unfortunately does not adequately consider the importance of engaging local communities as active partners in conservation, and the need to take into account their interests while ensuring efforts to combat wildlife crimes." 

The European Parliament proposed this new motion for a Resolution after the Resolution of the UN Commission on Crime, Prevention and Criminal Justice was passed in April 2013 and endorsed by the UN Economic and Social Council in July 2013. The UN Resolution encouraged Member States to "make illicit trafficking in wild fauna and flora a serious crime when organised criminal groups are involved".

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