Combating Wildlife Crime

The following speech was delivered at the European Parliament's plenary session in Strasbourg on Monday 13 January 2014.


I very much welcome the need to enhance wildlife law enforcement and to give serious organised wildlife crimes the same level of penalty as human trafficking, weapons trafficking and drug running. To do this, we must of course increase support for range states to help them fight organised poaching and trafficking and to promote actively campaigns which aim to black-list illegal products.

However, I must stress that whilst the Resolution has merit and mentions a great many important issues, I feel that due to the timing with the Christmas break, colleagues have been denied a proper debate on this subject. I understand IUCN had written to all political groups asking for a delay in order that more time is given to this important issue, yet this request was not accepted, resulting in an inaccurate and hurried Resolution.

I hope that at this late stage colleagues will call for the correction of some of the factual inaccuracies in the resolution (such as figures quoted for the global value of wildlife crime), and especially for the resolution to be broadened to consider issues related to the role of local communities and incentives for local people to value wildlife and support anti-wildlife crime efforts.

The wording of this resolution gives the strong impression that all wildlife trade is negative for conservation, without recognising that much wildlife trade (which includes timber, fish and plants used in cosmetics and healthcare) forms a vital component of local livelihood strategies, particularly for poor rural people, and much of this is sustainable. The resolution ignores the role that well-managed sustainable use and trade can play in promoting effective wildlife conservation and species recovery, including for example, South American vicuña and many crocodilian species.

Finally, the Resolution also fails adequately to consider the critical necessity for engaging local communities as active partners in the fight against wildlife crime, or highlight the range of ways that this can be promoted.