Time to give illegal wildlife trafficking the Red Light!

inta-hearing-1The world we live in is experiencing an unprecedented surge in the illegal trade of wildlife and wildlife products in both volume and value. Recent statistics reveal that over the past ten years rhino poaching increased by 7000% just in South Africa alone, while illicit ivory trade in general has doubled since 2007. From a population of 500 000 rhinos in the beginning of the 20th century, only 30 000 are alive today, revealing a dramatic 94% decline. Elephants are killed at an even greater number and many small animal species face extinction too.

As part of my work on the Committee on International Trade in the European Parliament, I have been actively campaigning to crack down on illegal wildlife trade and to bring this problem into the attention of policy-makers. I am currently writing an own-initiative report on this committee, which aims to explore the use of trade policy to aid sustainability of wildlife. It demonstrates that trade policy and its implementation could be important in the fight against illegal wildlife crime.

This is much more than an environmental crime threatening our ecosystems. It is a very lucrative business representing approximately £17 billion per year that fall outside governments’ regulations and is funding terrorism. This trafficking has a huge negative impact on good governance and the rule of law. Illegal wildlife trade is a global crime that brings security implications and, therefore, it requires a global coordinated approach. In my report, I emphasise the need for greater international cooperation with resource to the existing tools and mechanisms for combating this criminal activity and their effective implementation.

It is also of utmost importance to explore new problems associated with e-commerce and corruption and to ensure that we address demand in destination countries, working towards changing customers’ mentalities and, therefore, reducing the appeal for wildlife and wildlife products. Global trade and environmental regimes can and must do better to support each other.

Britain has taken a leading role on fighting this crime and it is important that we keep exercising our diplomatic leadership on addressing difficult and complex problems as illegal wildlife trafficking. The Elephant Protection Initiative and The Transport Taskforce of United for Wildlife are only two examples of the UK leading by example that we should be proud of.

From my side, I remain committed to cracking down this illegal activity by continuing to campaign hard in the European Parliament and at home and to make this a key and permanent priority on the trade agendas. Time is not on our side we must act now.

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© Copyright Emma McClarkin
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