By Gilbert Koech
The global illegal wildlife trade – be it live animals for the pet trade or public display, carcasses traded as ‘trophies’, or specific body parts and products made from them – is driving criminal activity, corruption, environmental destruction, animal suffering and risks to human safety.
The European Union is a major transit hub and destination for many illegal wild animals and wildlife products, says End, the report by UK charity Born Free.
It estimated global value of illegal trade in wildlife products is over €17 billion a year, with about 2,500 seizures of illegally traded wildlife products being made in the European Union every year.
The foundation says more than 30,000 African elephants are being killed annually, from a known wild population estimated at 434,000.
The number of rhinos poached in South Africa has risen year on year from 13 in 2007 to 1,215 in 2014.
The report says European Invasive Alien Species Gateway lists 80 species known to have become established in Europe through accidental or deliberate release of non-native wild animals traded as pets.
It said a 2010 study estimated that five tonnes of bush meat was being smuggled through Charles de Gaulle Airport, Paris, each week.
Born Free wants the EU to have in place an action plan to promote engagement across EU institutions and ensure the illegal wildlife trade is treated as a serious and organised crime across the Commission and EU Member States, and that it is considered in due diligence procedures for financial investment.
It also wants regulations reviewed and enhanced to ensure the EU tackles trafficking effectively, in particular, offences connected to illegal wildlife trade should be treated as ‘predicate’ offences, as defined in the UN Convention Against Transnational Organised Crime to enable the detection of associated money laundering activities and the confiscation of proceeds of wildlife trafficking.