Born Free Foundation - Keep Wildlife in the Wild

Illegal Wildlife Trade

Wildlife Crime Focus of Global Attention:
Born Free Foundation Calls for Immediate Action to Save Imperilled Species

10th Feb 2014

Elephants, rhinos, tigers, lions and other wild species at risk will be the focus of Thursday’s high level meeting on international wildlife trade, hosted by the UK government. The multi-billion dollar wildlife trade industry threatens the future survival of many species and is linked to international criminal cartels and terrorism.

The Born Free Foundation is calling on delegates at the High Level Summit to put wildlife crime high up the political agenda and for the international donor community to recognise that significant funding must be made available to turn the tide as a matter of urgency. Born Free is urging delegates to take every action possible to stop wildlife poaching, illegal wildlife trade, and commit to conserving wildlife in the wild.

Will Travers, President of Born Free stated: “Every year millions of wild animals are brutally shot, trapped, poisoned and mutilated, or kept alive in appalling conditions in order to be traded by networks of criminal gangs who will literally stop at nothing to get their prize”. 

Elephants, rhinos and tigers are among the numerous species in serious jeopardy due to the escalating poaching onslaught and they will be a critical focus of discussions at the Summit.  

The crisis of elephant and rhino poaching is horrific. In 2013, it has been estimated that possibly as many as 50,000 African elephants were slaughtered. Tanzania’s Selous National Reserve, long-regarded as one of Africa’s elephant strongholds, has seen its population fall from an estimated 70,000 in 2005 to just 13,000 today.  In 2007, South Africa lost 13 rhino to poaching. In 2013 more than 1,000 rhinos were brutally slaughtered for their horns.  Only 3,500 wild tigers cling to survival and wild lion numbers have halved in the last 30 years.

“High profit margins, low risk of detection, low rates of conviction and low-level penalties mean that wildlife crime is an attractive prospect for poachers and the criminal networks behind them” Travers explained. “Wildlife crime is becoming increasingly sophisticated - criminals are using complex technology and weaponry, non-traditional trade routes and increasing levels of violence. Creative accounting methods, shell companies and tax havens are being used to hide the financial profits of this disgusting trade. In addition, rebel militias are using profits from the illegal wildlife trade as a way of funding their campaigns of insecurity and terror. No one country or organisation can hope to address this crisis alone. We must all act urgently, strategically, and together”. 

The illegal trade, worth an estimated £12 billion a year, needs a concerted international response, and while the UK government has committed £10 million ahead of the Summit, far more is needed. Born Free is calling for a minimum pledge of £10 million a year for the next 10 years (from the government’s £140 billion overseas aid budget) to put real resources behind the fight back. 

“If the UK takes bold measures and shows real leadership on this issue then others - the US, Germany, France, the EU, the private sector and, yes, the Chinese, will follow. A one-day meeting is a good start but we must keep the momentum going beyond February 13th” said Will Travers. ”Unless initiatives such as the African Elephant Action Plan, a blueprint for saving Africa’s elephants, are fully funded, I fear we can wave goodbye to many of the world’s most magnificent wild animals from large parts of our fragile planet.”

More information about the work that the Born Free Foundation is doing for the victims of the illegal wildlife trade.

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