Prosecutors from eight South American countries confirmed this week that they have formally agreed to launch a regional law enforcement network to combat wildlife poaching, trafficking and illegal logging. The "Sao Paolo" declaration was signed last Friday and affirmed this week by officers from Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, Paraguay, Peru and Venezuela. Plans are underway for some countries to form multi-agency task forces in the near future.
The prosecutors, including members of the South American Environmental Prosecutors Network, held a special workshop in Sao Paolo last week to discuss the formation of a "WEN" (Wildlife Enforcement Network) to help battle poaching and illicit trade in the region's wild animals and plants, including trees and marine life. South America is home to a variety of wild animal, tree and marine species which are fetching high prices on the global black market.
South America's new Wildlife Enforcement Network will be the latest in a series of WENs being developed around the world to fight the global multi-billion dollar trade in endangered species, which is increasingly linked to other forms of organized crime. Southeast Asia, South Asia, China, parts of Africa, and Central America are all at some stage of developing WENs.
The Sao Paolo regional prosecutors’ workshop was hosted by the Public Prosecutors Office of the State of Sao Paolo and was sponsored by the US Department of State and Freeland, a counter wildlife trafficking organization. The US Government and Freeland have been collaborating to support a global system of WENs. During the workshop the US Department of Justice and Freeland officers shared lessons learned with the South American prosecutors about wildlife enforcement initiatives from other parts of the world. WENs in Asia, for example, include national task forces with focal points that communicate and conduct operations with one another across borders to go after organized wildlife crime.
Brazil, which hosted last week's event, declared it would start forming its own multi-agency task force and plans to send a delegation to a global enforcement event in Bangkok in November to begin collaboration with Asian, African and North American agencies to jointly counter global wildlife and timber trafficking.
"Wildlife trafficking, poaching and illegal logging are among the biggest threats to our biodiversity,” said Dr. Juliana M. Ferreira, Executive Director, Freeland Brasil. “The only way to fight organized crime is to organize ourselves. National and regional WENs are the only way to turn this around. Freeland congratulates the Public Prosecutors office and its South American allies for taking this bold and important step.”
In Brazil, it is estimated that over 38 million wild animals are taken from nature every year to supply the wildlife black market . Global wildlife poaching and trafficking is worth an estimaed US$10 billion to US$20 billion per year, with Brazil accounting for up to 15 percent of the total.