$19 billion per year illegal wildlife trade threatens national security, says WWF12/12/2012 17:17:31 Illegal wildlife trade fuels poverty, terrorism, corruption and conflict
December 2012. Perceived by organized criminals to be high profit and low risk, the illicit trade in wildlife is worth at least US$ 19 billion per year, making it the fourth largest illegal global trade after narcotics, counterfeiting, and human trafficking, according to a new report commissioned by WWF.
Danger to wildlife, health and national security
"Wildlife crime has escalated alarmingly in the past decade. It is driven by global crime syndicates, and so we need a concentrated global response," says Jim Leape, Director General of WWF International.
Terrorism and gun running
The involvement of organized crime syndicates and rebel groups in wildlife crimes is increasing, according to interviews with governments and international organizations conducted by global advisory group Dalberg on behalf of WWF.
Report respondents agree that the absence of credible law enforcement, prosecution, penalties and other deterrents to wildlife trafficking reduces the perceived risks for criminal groups. They also say that consumer demand is exacerbated by the increased accessibility of illegal wildlife products through the internet.
Report interviewees stressed that illegal wildlife trade is almost always seen by governments as exclusively an environmental problem and is not treated as a transnational crime and justice issue.
"Governments need to address wildlife crime as a matter of urgency," Leape said. "It is not just a matter of environmental protection, but also of national security. It is time to put a stop to this profound threat to the rule of law."
Government officials say that a systematic approach is needed to fight illicit wildlife trafficking including greater resourcing, inter-ministerial cooperation, and the use of modern intelligence-led investigative techniques to identify and prosecute wildlife criminals.
Finally, governments and non-governmental organizations have an important role in holding countries publicly accountable for delivering on their international commitments, the report says. The Elephant Trade Information System, executed by TRAFFIC, and the recent WWF Wildlife Crime Scorecard provide examples of reporting initiatives that highlight countries failing to uphold their commitments.