Categories: conservation

European Union failing to support developing countries to stop wildlife trafficking

Photo: flickkerphotos

It is shocking to be told that thousands of products made from tigers, elephants, rhinos and other endangered species are being traded in Britain and throughout the European Union.  The reason is poor and disjointed controls at ports and airports.  It’s another European Union mess to put it frankly.

It is estimated that only 10% of wildlife traded products are seized in the European Union. Therefore, we conclude, that the almost all wildlife trafficking in the form of either living creatures or products made from their bodies is undetected in Europe. In Britain, between 2009 and 2014, 2,800 illegal wildlife products were seized by the border force. These included 1,682 tiger products many of which are thought to be en route to the Far East and predominately China.

China is the biggest market for tiger bone wine and ivory carvings. Vietnam is also a major importer particularly of rhino horn. This is used in traditional medicine as most of us are now aware. The number of rhinos poached for their horns in 2014 was 1,215 compared to 13 rhinos poached in 2007. As shocking increase and sadly a complete failure in conservation.

Virginia McKenna the actress and co-founder of the Born Free Foundation said:

“The impact of wildlife trafficking is devastating species and threatening the security of local communities. It is a soft touch for organised crime with high financial returns, low risks and meagre penalties. The EU, as a responsible global leader, must make this a priority, put its own house in order and provide support for developing countries in their efforts to bring this despicable activity to an end. The misery and cruelty of the illegal wildlife trade can no longer be tolerated.”

The Duke of Cambridge said:

“Around the world the illegal wildlife trade is responsible for the slaughter of tens of thousands of animals a year pushing some of our most loved species to the brink of extinction. Our children should not live in a world without elephants, tigers, pangolins and rhinos. Enough is enough.”

Patrick Omondi, the deputy director of the Kenyan Wildlife Service, said:

“The European Union has a huge part to play, as an important source, transit point and destination for many wildlife products of African origin. Coordinated EU action is vital if illegal trade routes and markets are to be shut down.”

Will Travers, the president of the Born Free Foundation says that the EU could be contributing to the illegal wildlife trade in its financial grants to African nations. The money goes into building roads which gives access to poachers to remote areas where, until the road was built, endangered species were safe.

As I understand it, the UK is the biggest donator of overseas financial aid in the world. If Will Travers is correct then the UK is contributing to the extinction of species in Africa.

You may be aware, that the live trafficking of endangered species is commonplace. It always shocking to see endangered geckos or lizards in suitcases. The traffickers packed them in tight and the death toll is high. The border force recently found 165 critically endangered turquoise dwarf geckos from Tanzania at Heathrow’s Terminal 4. Three-quarters of reptiles entering the UK pet trade died within a year despite the fact that these reptiles have a life expectancy of from 8 to 120 years depending on the species.

The time to improve the rules and regulations within the European Union (and their enforcement) to clamp down on illegal wildlife trafficking is long overdue. It is time for the bureaucrats to get off their fat bums and do something constructive to protect the endangered wild species of the world.


Sources: The Times – WWF (for figures)

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Michael Broad

Hi, I'm a 71-year-old retired solicitor (attorney in the US). Before qualifying I worked in many jobs including professional photography. I have a girlfriend, Michelle. I love nature, cats and all animals. I am concerned about their welfare.

View Comments

  • Wildlife trafficking is a highly organised and lucrative business. It's so widespread that it's almost impossible to detect every incident at border control. Corruption in some countries makes it easy to pay officials to turn a blind-eye.

    The comment from Will Travers about poachers now having easier access to remote areas, due to road building schemes financed by foreign aid was very interesting. That's a scenario I'd never even thought about.

    Governments around the world must do more to protect wildlife, but too many countries lack the resources or will to do so. What they could all implement are universal standards of punishment for anyone convicted of being involved with poaching or trafficking of wildlife. A minimum 15 year prison sentence, plus fine equivalent to the blackmarket value of the animal in question would be a start. (Those who can't pay the fine can have their prison sentence extended to life without parole.)

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