Wildlife Crime One of Largest Global Organized Criminal Activities, alongside Drug, Arms, and Human Trafficking

Human Wrongs Watch

Once an emerging threat, wildlife and forest crime today has transformed into one of the largest transnational organized criminal activities, alongside drug trafficking, arms, and trafficking in human beings, the United Nations warned on World Wildlife Day 2015, on 3 March 2015*

Beyond immediate environmental impacts, the illegal trade in natural resources is depriving developing economies of billions of dollars in lost revenues. - See more at: http://www.unep.org/newscentre/Default.aspx?DocumentID=26788&ArticleID=34775&l=en#sthash.sPFlHVZx.dpuf

Beyond immediate environmental impacts, the illegal trade in natural resources is depriving developing economies of billions of dollars in lost revenues. | Source: UNEP

Beyond immediate environmental impacts, the illegal trade in natural resources is depriving developing economies of billions of dollars in lost revenues.

The number of elephants killed in Africa annually is in the range of 20,000 to 25,000 per year out of a population of 420,000 to 650,000.

According to recent data from the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, as many as 100,000 were killed in a three-year period from 2010 through 2012.

Population of Forest Elephants Declined by 62 per cent

For forest elephants, the population declined by an estimated 62 per cent between 2002 and 2011. Poached African ivory may represent an end-user street value in Asia of US$165 to US$188 million of raw ivory, in addition to ivory from Asian sources.

According to new figures released today by CITES, overall elephant poaching rates remained virtually unchanged in 2014 compared to 2013, and still exceed natural elephant population growth rates, meaning a continued decline in elephant numbers overall is likely.

1,215 Rhinos Poached in South Africa Alone in 2014

CITES reports that 1,215 rhinos were poached in South Africa alone in 2014 – this translates to one rhino killed every eight hours. Approximately 94 per cent of rhino poaching takes place in South Africa, which has the largest remaining populations.

The involvement of organized syndicates has seen poaching rise from less than 20 in 2007 to over 1,000 in South Africa in 2013, and rhino horn poached in 2014 is valued at an estimated US$63 to US$192 million.

The Great Apes Survival Partnership (GRASP) reports that the illicit traffic in live great apes is an increasingly serious threat to chimpanzees, gorillas, and bonobos in Africa and orangutans in Asia, with seizures averaging 1.3 per week since 2014.

 **Photo: Panthera tigris.| Author: Moni Sertel | Wikimedia Commons

**Photo: Panthera tigris.| Author: Moni Sertel | Wikimedia Commons

More Great Apes than Ever Die During Capture, Captivity in Illicit Traffic 

Many more great apes die during capture and captivity than ever enter the illicit traffic; it is estimated that a minimum of 220 chimpanzees, 106 orangutans, 33 bonobos, and 15 gorillas have been lost from the wild over the last 14 months, according to GRASP.

The Spix’s macaw, the bird portrayed in the animation “Rio” by the friendly character “Blue”, is one of the most endangered species on the planet. Today there are only 80 Spix’s macaws in the world, the majority of which are kept by foreign bird keepers (in Spain, Germany and Qatar).

Pangolins, also known as ‘scaly anteaters’ are among the world’s most trafficked mammals on earth, with over one million animals taken from the wild in the past decade.

The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) is launching new initiatives to halt the illegal trade in wildlife in Asia and Africa. These initiatives will tackle wildlife crime by focusing on law enforcement, regulations, and engaging the private sector and strengthening collaboration between governments within and across the two regions.

Sumatran orangutan (Pongo abelii)

***Sumatran orangutan (Pongo abelii) | Author: Original uploader was Dave59 at en.wikipedia.

“Global Programme for Combating Wildlife and Forest Crime”

In mid-2014, UNODC launched a “Global Programme for Combating Wildlife and Forest Crime” – a comprehensive, four-year initiative to build government capacity in preventing and combating these crimes at regional, national and local levels, and to raise awareness to reduce demand for wild fauna and flora.

The Global Programme is working for, and with, the wildlife law enforcement community to ensure that wildlife crime, illegal logging, and related crimes are treated as serious transnational organized crimes.

The illegal trade in precious timber such as rosewood is also lucrative, well organized, transnational and involves corruption. Substantial volumes of CITES-listed rosewood are smuggled from Madagascar, Southeast Asia and Central America.

Between June 2011 and June 2014, more than 4,800 tonnes of illegal Rosewood that originated from Madagascar were seized by authorities in various countries in Eastern Africa and Asia.

In December 2014, Hong Kong Customs made a seizure of 92 tonnes of non-declared “Honduras rosewood” arriving from Guatemala via Mexico. Illegal trade in “Siamese Rosewood” from Southeast Asia has also escalated in recent years.

Events and observances around the world

In addition to the UN General Assembly session, where Clinton Foundation Vice Chair Chelsea Clinton will deliver opening remarks, World Wildlife Day is being marked by events around the world.

In New York, the WCS Central Park Zoo is featuring a high-level expert panel discussion on the links between wildlife trafficking, organized crime and sustainable development, moderated by ABC Nightline host Dan Harris. It will be followed by a reception with the Indonesian celebrity advocate and Great Apes Survival Partnership (GRASP) Ambassador, Nadya Hutagalung.

Other observances are being held around the world, including: Cairo, Kruger National Park, Lima, Nairobi, Seoul, Vienna, at the Geneva airport, and at the Berlin Internationale Tourismus-Börse (ITB). Two Spix’s macaws will arrive at 6 a.m. in Sao Paulo, Brazil, today as part of a programme to return this species to the original Brazilian habitat.


UNDP Administrator, Helen Clark

“World Wildlife Day is an opportunity to celebrate wildlife, but it is also a wake-up call to get serious about wildlife crime. We must all do more to halt the illegal trade in wildlife. UNDP and its partners are committed to this task.”

UNODC Executive Director, Yury Fedotov

“Wildlife crime is a transnational organized crime generating billions of dollars and undermining development. It is also an inter-generational crime that can permanently scar the world through the loss of some of our most beautiful creatures. To stop this, we must act now.”

UN Under-Secretary-General and UNEP Executive Director, Achim Steiner

“While there is growing awareness about wildlife crime, the responses to date in terms of impact have not been commensurate with the scale and growth of the threat to wildlife and the environment. The scale of wildlife and forest crime in threat finance calls for much wider interventions and policy action.”

*Source: UNEP). Read more on www.wildlifeday.org

**Photo: Panthera tigris.| Author: Moni Sertel | Wikimedia Commons

***Photo: Sumatran orangutan (Pongo abelii) | Author: Original uploader was Dave59 at en.wikipedia.

Read also:

On World Day – Crime against Wildlife Worth Up to $10 Billion a Year

Wildlife, Forest Crime One of Largest Organized Criminal Activities, alongside Trafficking of Drugs, Arms, Humans

World Marches to Demand an End to Illegal Trade in Wildlife

Celebrating the Majesty of One of the Most Threatened Animals on World Elephant Day

The Agony of African Elephants: Killings Doubled; Illegal Ivory Trade Tripled

Massive Smuggling of Elephant Ivory, Rhino Horn and Great Apes

Illegal Trade in Wildlife and Timber Worth Over $200 Billion a Year, and Helps Finance Organized Crime and Terrorist Groups

UN Proposes New Treaty to Protect Elephants, Polar Bears, Sharks, Medicinal Plants

2015 Human Wrongs Watch

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