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Experts urge stronger action
to combat wildlife crime
Bangkok, 5 October 2004 – Representatives of an international
group of law enforcement experts attending the ongoing meeting of
the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild
Fauna and Flora (CITES) will present their conclusions (today/tomorrow)
about the threats posed by wildlife criminals to the survival of
numerous plants and animals.Experts urge stronger action to combat
Consisting of 20 officials from national CITES Management Authorities,
the CITES Tiger Enforcement Task Force, customs authorities, fishery
protection authorities, intelligence agencies, the Interpol Wildlife
Crime Working Group, the Lusaka Agreement Task Force police and
prosecution and wildlife authorities from around the world, the
group was tasked by CITES in 2002 to study how effectively the Convention
is being enforced and to make recommendations for improvements.
The group’s results make depressing reading:
- The illicit trafficking of wildlife continues at high levels
and increasingly involves organized criminal networks, sophisticated
poaching and smuggling techniques, fraudulent trade permits, corruption
and violence towards enforcement officers;
- In many countries the authorities lack the necessary resources
and experience to meet the challenge; and
- There is not enough coordination and information sharing amongst
various enforcement authorities;
The experts are calling for:
- A recognition by governments of the seriousness of wildlife
crime and a commitment by law enforcement authorities to give
it a higher priority;
- Increases in the status, authority, training and quality of
equipment of wildlife law enforcement personnel;
- Greater international and regional cooperation and better coordination
- More use of and easier access to forensic science;
- More use of CITES enforcement task forces; and
- Increased support to the wildlife enforcement work of the CITES
Secretariat, Interpol and the World Customs Organization.
"We are in danger of losing the war against wildlife crime, especially
for some very rare animals and plants, unless modern professional
law enforcement techniques are directed against criminals who care
for nothing but profit, who exploit some of the world’s poorest
communities and take advantage of periods of civil unrest and instability,"
said CITES Secretary-General Willem Wijnstekers.
The conference will also hear about successes in the field
of wildlife law enforcement. The Secretary-General of CITES has
implemented a Certificate of Commendation to recognize some of the
more exemplary enforcement actions. Since 2002, the Certificate
has been awarded to:
- Customs officers and the CITES Management Authority of Hong
Kong S.A.R. China following a significant seizure of ivory and
the successful prosecution of the offender;
- An official of the ICPO-Interpol General Secretariat for his
work in combating wildlife crime; and
- The US Fish and Wildlife Service’s Division of Law Enforcement
and the US Department of Justice’s Wildlife and Marine Resources
Section for their efforts in identifying and prosecuting individuals
involved in the illicit caviar trade.
The illegal trade in wildlife remains the second greatest threat
to the world’s endangered species after habitat destruction. Many
wildlife smugglers deal in products that are worth more, per kilo,
than cocaine or heroin. Shawls made from the fine wool of the Tibetan
antelope, for example, can cost over USD 15,000 each. The caviar
trade is infested with organized crime networks.
"Senior enforcement officials seldom attend CITES meetings,
and wildlife crime is rarely discussed at international conferences
on crime. This must change," said Mr. Wijnstekers.
"There is a great deal of excellent work taking place
around the world, but it is simply not enough. I hope that Bangkok
will see a real commitment from countries to engage with us more
energetically in the constant battle against wildlife criminals,"
Note to journalists: For more information, contact Juan-Carlos
Vasquez at 229-3040 (Media Center - QSNCC) or +41-79-378-6540 (cell),
firstname.lastname@example.org, or Michael Williams at 04-098-7621 (cell)
or 229-3042 (office), or email@example.com. The relevant
document (CoP13 Doc.23) will be examined in Committee II under agenda
item 23 and is available at www.cites.org.
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