By Liat Clark
According to a report published by WWF, the illegal wildlife trade is now worth £12 billion a year and poses a threat to national security, prompting the conservation organisation to call on governments in source and consumer countries to step up their law enforcement.
The £12 billion figure is significantly greater than older approximations, which estimated the illegal industry as being worth around £7-8 billion. The report also ranks it as being the fourth largest global illegal trade, though well behind the drugs, counterfeit products and currency, and people trafficking industries.
Carried out by management consultancy firm Dalberg and based on interviews with representatives from more than 110 governments and international organisations, the report lands part of the blame with governments that continue to see the issue as purely an environmental one, despite the links the industry has with corruption, money laundering and terrorism. As such, nations routinely fail to prioritise it.
"This is about much more than wildlife," said WWF international director general Jim Leape at a press conference. "This crisis is threatening the very stability of governments. It has become a profound threat to national security."
WWF's call to action echoes a recent speech by US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who in November said: "Over the past few years wildlife trafficking has become more organised, more lucrative, more widespread, and more dangerous than ever before. More....