By Edward Faulks
My Lords, a few years ago the subject of this debate might have been regarded as rather marginal in terms of importance; that is no longer the case.
In introducing this debate I should declare an interest as a Friend of the Whitley Fund for Nature ,a charity concerned with conservation world-wide.
Illegal trade in wildlife has grown to become a massive global industry. It is said to be worth at least 90 billion dollars per year. It is ranked as the fourth largest global illegal activity after narcotics, counterfeiting and human trafficking and ahead of oil, art, gold, human organs, small arms and diamonds.
Illegal ivory trade activity worldwide has more than doubled since 2007 and is now over three times larger than it was in 1998, its highest level in two decades with ivory fetching up to $1,000 a pound or $2,205 a kilogram on the streets of Beijing.
The worst year on record for elephant ivory seizures was 2011 when almost 40 tons of smuggled ivory was seized. In the last decade 11,000 forest elephants have been killed in one park alone, Gabon’s Minkebe National Park, with a total population of forest elephants down 62% in the past 10 years. The kill rate of elephants now exceeds the birth rate – a trend that if not reversed could lead to the extinction of the African elephant from some areas in the next few years.
In 2012 a record 668 rhinos were poached in South Africa up by almost 50% from 2011 figures. In 2013 the toll continued to rise with 201 rhinos killed in Kruger National Park alone. A sub-species of the black rhino was declared extinct in the wild in West Africa in 2011.
A seizure in July 2013 in the Czech Republic of 24 white rhino horns was the largest ever in the EU.It led to the arrest of 16 suspects in connection with wildlife trafficking. Czech authorities announced that an international gang had been importing rhino horns illegally into the Czech Republic from where they were to be shipped to Asia for sale. Reports were that the gang used bogus hunters to kill the animals in South Africa who then applied for export/import permits to move the horns under the pretext of being personal trophies.
According to Interpol, the US Department of State, the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime and others, the same routes used to smuggle wildlife across countries and continents are often used to smuggle weapons, drugs and people with the same culprits frequently involved. Indeed wildlife crime often occurs hand in hand with other offences like fraud, corruption, money laundering, theft and murder. More....