By Jenny Jones
Will it surprise you if I tell you that wildlife crime now ranks as the fourth biggest illegal trade after drugs, counterfeiting and people, in terms of profits?
It is a global economic crime perpetrated often by criminal organisations and it is linked to the illegal trafficking of drugs, people and even to terrorism. The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime calculated in 2011 that the total value of the illegal global wildlife trade was between $8bn to $10bn annually (excluding timber and marine wildlife).
London is a centre for criminals who abuse and traffic wildlife, which is why it's obvious that the Government, the Metropolitan Police and the Mayor of London should take this issue seriously. They don’t. Since I was elected to the London Assembly I have been lobbying the Met to properly fund and resource its Wildlife Crime Unit, but senior officers just don’t see it as core policing and its funding has been reduced by the Met, with the occasional threat of scrapping it altogether.
Now, yet again, the funding for this unit is under serious threat. That’s in spite of the fact that the unit does a huge amount of good work and gets the Met rare positive media coverage. Since 2012 the Wildlife Crime Unit has been partially funded by the World Society for the Protection of Animals (WSPA). The £100,000 a year of extra funding has ensured two critical staff posts, which have increased the effectiveness of the unit, and provided a small operational budget. However this funding will come to an end in April 2014.
The work the Wildlife Crime Unit does with the support of WSPA is fantastic, but it should not be left to charities to step in to enforce the law, especially against organised crime. It is one thing for a charity to start something off to demonstrate what can be achieved, but quite another to fully fund it. More....