The European Parliament’s environment committee voted on October 13 to back a full and immediate EU-wide ban on ivory and rhinoceros horn trade.

MEPs unanimously adopted a report that outlines parliament’s response to an EU action plan presented by the European Commission.

Rapporteur Catherine Bearder (ALDE, UK) tabled the report. She said: “Wildlife trafficking is the fourth biggest organised criminal activity on the planet. It is high time we got really serious about it. The penalties against wildlife trafficking must be very severe to reflect the seriousness of this crime and must be the same across the EU. I am also delighted that MEPs are calling for a full and immediate EU-wide ban on the ivory trade.”

According to a European Parliament press release, wildlife trafficking is worth an estimated €20bn annually.

Wildlife trafficking is an organised criminal activity. Although it is banned in many countries all over the world, a high level of corruption in many Asian, African and Latin American countries has failed to protect wild animals and to combat poaching.

A serious crime against our natural habitat – our future – is being committed in the markets of the above mentioned continents today. Dozens of endangered species are victims of a lucrative activity undertaken by mafia-type groups.

In some counties, wildlife trafficking is also a big source of revenue for terrorist groups.

These are mainly the jihadist movements in Somalia and West Africa.

In these areas on the African continent, Al Shabaab (active in Somalia and Kenya) and AQIM (active in Mali) rake in hundreds of thousands of dollars from illegal poaching and the trafficking of elephants and rhinos.

During the debate in the European Parliament, MEPs agreed on the need for common EU-wide sanctions against wildlife trafficking. They also called for a ban on the trade, export and re-export of ivory and rhinoceros horns.

They also agreed that the European Union should review existing legislation with a view of supplementing it with a ban on the sale, transport, acquisition and possession of wildlife products that have been illegally harvested or traded in non-EU countries.

Stressing that trophy hunting has contributed to large-scale declines in certain species, the MEPs urged the EU to establish a precautionary approach to dealing with the import of hunting trophies from species protected under the EU Wildlife Trade Regulations.

The EU should also act on an international level to support non-EU countries in fighting wildlife trafficking and contribute to the necessary legal frameworks, through bilateral and multilateral agreements, the MEPs said.

There are already some successful agreements that have been reached through the creation of wildlife parks. It is also a reality that corruption has not contaminated the entire society in the above mentioned areas of our planet and that there are enough activists and honest civil servants who care about the protection of the wildlife.

As such, it must be understood that wildlife trafficking is an organised criminal activity and part of the illicit financing networks of jihadist groups.