VIENNA- United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) has adopted a new ‘Global Programme for Combatting Wildlife and Forest Crime’ in response to the worsening levels of illicit trafficking of fauna and flora, amid increasing recognition that responding to the threat posed to wildlife and forests is no longer purely a conservation issue.
“The Global Programme will be implemented over the next four years and is an important step towards building Government capacity to prevent and combat wildlife and forest crime on a regional, national and local basis. It will also raise awareness to contribute to the reduction of demand for wild fauna and flora,” said UNDOC in a press release on its website.
The adoption of the Global Programme follows the 23rd Commission on Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice which concluded last week in Vienna. During its meeting, the Commission called for more work to be done on tackling environmental crime, and introduced a draft resolution aimed at strengthening targeted crime prevention and criminal justice responses to combat illicit trafficking in forest products.
According to UNDOC, the emergence of this Global Programme shows just how much this critical issue has come to the fore in recent years,” commented UNODC Executive Director Yury Fedotov. “It highlights a serious and growing problem and one which UNODC is in a unique position to help fight. By working in a coordinated, global manner that allows us to complement existing initiatives by our partners, I am confident that we can help contribute to real change at both the supply and demand side.
Wildlife and forest crime present a particularly devastating form of organized crime. The number of tigers in the world, for example, have plummeted from about 100,000 a century ago to approximately 3,000 today, and they continue to fall with an average 110 tigers killed every year. The rhino population is also under threat with three of the five living rhino species listed as ‘critically endangered’ on the Red List of Threatened Species of the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). In South Africa, home to 90 per cent of Africa’s rhino population, 1,004 rhinos were killed in 2013 – a devastating climb from 2003 when 22 rhinos were killed. Meanwhile across Africa it is estimated that over 20,000 elephants are poached annually for their ivory.
UNDOC says there are also strong links to other forms of crime. Fraud, money laundering and corruption are all frequently associated with this crime, and the existing modus operandi and routes used for the trafficking of drugs, people and firearms are employed by traffickers of fauna and flora.
“It is also a major funding source: in East Asia and the Pacific alone – a region particularly vulnerable to timber trafficking – criminal groups make around US$23 billion annually from wildlife and forest crimes. This constitutes a large part of the US$90 billion a year that is generated from transnational organised crime in the region collectively.”-WAM