Born Free has welcomed the UK Wildlife Crime Policing Strategy for 2018-2021.
The strategy, which has been endorsed by the National Police Chiefs’ Council and Police and Crime Commissioners, emphasises the importance of tackling wildlife crime in the UK, in order to protect biodiversity, conserve wild species, and improve animal welfare, for the sake of wildlife and the health and well-being of people.
Born Free’s Head of Policy, Dr Mark Jones, said: “For years, the National Wildlife Crime Unit and dedicated wildlife crime officers within individual police forces have worked tirelessly to combat wildlife crime in the UK, but without much-needed high-level support. The Wildlife Crime Policing Strategy recognises the importance of protecting wildlife against criminals, and sets out clear priorities which should enhance the ability of the police, alongside other agencies and stakeholders, to deal with wildlife crime.”
The strategy reaffirms six operational wildlife conservation and enforcement priorities: badger, raptor and bat persecution; poaching; illegal wildlife trade; and criminality associated with freshwater pearl mussels. Action on each of these priorities is coordinated by Priority Delivery Groups.
It also identifies some essential steps which would enhance wildlife crime policing, which include: improving the information, intelligence and training available to police officers and other key staff; widening central recording of wildlife crimes; securing future funding for the National Wildlife Crime Unit; and working with the Crown Prosecution Service and the courts to improve conviction rates and ensure convicted criminals receive appropriate sentences.
The strategy was launched alongside the Rural Affairs Strategy at an event hosted by North Yorkshire Police in Harrogate on 25th July. The launch was attended by representatives from more than 40 police forces, as well as Police and Crime Commissioners, government departments, non-governmental organisations and other stakeholders.
Dr Jones, who attended the launch, added: “Born Free has worked hard, alongside our partners at Wildlife and Countryside Link, to increase recognition among government departments and officials, enforcement agencies, the police, and many others, that wildlife crime in the UK needs to be taken seriously. We have also lobbied hard for long-term funding for the National Wildlife Crime Unit, and for wildlife crimes to be centrally recorded so the scale and breadth of these criminal activities can be better understood and prioritised accordingly. We will continue this work, alongside our partners at Wildlife and Countryside Link and through our membership of the Partnership for Action Against Wildlife Crime, to help ensure the strategy is a success.”