By Simon Pope
Simon Pope, Director of Campaigns and Communications for the World Society for the Protection of Animals, questions why the UK government is so far behind other global powers when it comes to tackling the illegal wildlife trade.
It is a pivotal time in the global fight against the illegal wildlife trade. Rhino poaching is at a record high, there is a seemingly unquenchable thirst for ivory in the East and there has been a bloody battle at CITES (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species) to take shark fin soup off the menu.
The signs are clear: this is not some niche, illicit trade carried out by petty part-time villains. It’s a major source of revenue for a global network of hardened criminals – gangs, drug lords, terrorists all growing rich from the trafficking of wildlife, none about to have a crisis of conscience and stop what they are doing.
To them, a rhino horn is simply a commodity. An endangered parrot is an expensive trophy pet. A shahtoosh shawl is a must-have fashion accessory. None of these can be considered essentials, but they all have a price and for that price those animals suffer being tracked down, sought out, butchered and then traded.
But what is the financial cost? The wildlife trade body, TRAFFIC quotes a study from 2011 which suggests that the illegal wildlife trade stands at US $7.8-10 billion per year. A 2008 report for the US Congress suggested it might be as high as $20 billion.
When we look deeper at those who are operating this global trade, we find links to serious and organised crime such as drug cartels and even terrorism. More....