The European Commission adopted an EU Action Plan to tackle wildlife trafficking within the EU and to strengthen the EU’s role in the global fight against these illegal activities, which have become some of the most profitable crimes worldwide.
Recent years have seen a dramatic surge in wildlife trafficking. An estimated 8 to 20 billion euro pass annually through the hands of organised criminal groups, ranking alongside the trafficking of drugs, people and arms. It not only threatens the survival of some emblematic species, it also breeds corruption, claims human victims, and deprives poorer communities of much-needed income. It also threatens security in Central Africa, where militia and terrorist groups partly fund their activities through wildlife trafficking. Therefore, the action plan against wildlife trafficking is part of the wider EU Action Plan to strengthen the fight against terrorist financing presented by the Commission earlier in February.
The EU is a destination, source and transit region for trafficking in endangered species, which involves live and dead specimens of wild fauna and flora, or parts of products made from them. More than 20.000 elephants and 1.200 rhinoceroses were killed in 2014 and, after years of recovery, their populations are still in severe decline.
The Action Plan against wildlife trafficking comprises 32 measures to be carried out between now and 2020, which focuses on three priorities. First, prevent trafficking and reduce supply and demand of illegal wildlife products by producing guidelines aiming to suspend the export of old ivory items from the EU. Second, enhance implementation of existing rules and combat organised crime more effectively by increasing cooperation between competent enforcement agencies such as Europol. Third, strengthen cooperation between source, destination and transit countries, including strategic EU financial support to tackle trafficking in source countries, help build capacity for enforcement and provide long term sources of income to rural communities living in wildlife-rich areas. As the biggest donor internationally, the EU is supporting conservation efforts in Africa with 700 million EUR for the period 2014-2020.
Since the Action Plan was prepared jointly with Federica Mogherini, Vice president of the European Commission and High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, she said:
“Wildlife trafficking and poaching are drivers of insecurity and instability in several countries and regions. They can provide resources to armed groups and encourage corruption. We have to build strong partnerships with the countries along the trafficking chain – origin, destination and transit. The EU is ready to work with its partners in order to stop this form of trafficking and to support affected communities.”
Karmenu Vella, EU Commissioner for Environment, Fisheries and Maritime Affairs said:
“Wildlife trafficking is a major threat to our sustainable future, and we need to fight it on several fronts. At this rate, a child born today will see the last wild elephants and rhinos die before their 25th birthdays. The new Action Plan underlines our commitment to ending this criminal activity, bringing together political will and action on the ground.”