Wildlife crimes, such as illegal killing, poisoning, trapping or illegal trade of species constitute a major threat to many of the planet’s species. In fact, unsustainable and illegal wildlife trade and other types of wildlife crimes are the second biggest direct threat to species, after habitat loss. However, the true impact and incidence of these illegal actions are broadly underestimated; such infringements are widely considered minor offences.
"Most of us live in urban centers and it doesn't seem logical that the pressure on wild animals is increasing. We know about deforestation and habitat loss, but most of us are not aware of the growing illegal killing of now threatened species that is happening for food, because of beliefs in their healing powers and for luxury items as status symbols. Humanity is destroying wild animals at an extraordinary rate and rarely because we need them for sustenance. Our legal systems are just catching onto the enormity of the problem and have outlawed some practices. Wildlife crime affects us through the huge criminal networks, which also operate in human and drug trafficking, but also because humans cannot survive as a species without a healthy biodiversity to sustain our ecosystems. We urgently need to make sure that wildlife crime is prosecuted as other serious crimes and welcome all efforts from the judicial system, decision makers and general public to halt the extinction of species." – says Ekaterina Voynova, Senior Expert Wildlife Conservation at WWF -Bulgaria.
“The latest market study on trade in caviar and sturgeon products shows how serious the impact of poaching is on the last wild sturgeons. Understanding the consequences of poaching, which affects not only the species but also the well-being of fishing communities, by law enforcement, better case prosecution, understanding the consequences of choices made by the consumers, are important aspects in saving sturgeons” – says Cristina Munteanu, Freshwater Project Manager at WWF-Romania
In fact, wildlife crime comprises the fourth largest transnational organized criminal activity worldwide, after arms, drugs and human trafficking. According to the 2014 report by UNEP-INTERPOL, environmental crime is estimated to be worth up to $258 billion a year and frequently links to other serious crimes such as fraud, money laundering and corruption.
The Successful Wildlife Crime Prosecution in Europe (SWiPE) project comprises 13 partners in 11 countries under the funding of the EU LIFE Programme. It works with enforcement authorities to discourage and ultimately reduce wildlife crime by improving compliance with EU environmental law. SWiPE aims to contribute to increasing the number of successfully prosecuted offences.
Lead partner: WWF-Bulgaria
Associated beneficiaries: State Attorney’s Office of the Republic of Croatia, Fauna & Flora International (in Romania), Judicial Academy Croatia, WWF-Adria in Serbia, WWF Adria, WWF Spain, WWF-Hungary & TRAFFIC, WWF-Italy, WWF-Poland, WWF-Romania, WWF-Slovakia, and WWF-Ukraine.
The project activities aim to boost the awareness and capacity of prosecutors and selected law enforcement authorities to provide effective environmental compliance assurance, enhance cross-border knowledge exchange, and increase cooperation between relevant authorities. Overall, SWiPE will help reduce the illegal killing of Europe’s wildlife, support the recovery of threatened European biodiversity, the health of ecosystems, and decrease Europe’s involvement in the illegal wildlife trade.
“The CITES Convention entered into force in Ukraine in 2000, but still is not fuly implemented in the national legislation. The SWiPE campaign will help us to raise awareness of wildlife crimes` seriousness in the country. At the moment wildlife crimes are part of the environmental crimes, which represent on average 0.71% of all recorded criminal offences per year in Ukraine. Of this small number of criminal offences against the environment, about 70% of the cases are closed” – says Anna Gayova, Senior Expert at WWF-Ukraine
"Wildlifecrime is a societal problem that is often overlooked also because it is a crime that does not directly endanger us personally. General but also professional public is often unaware of the scope and impact of such acts. Statistical figures capture only a fraction of illegal activities. Many remain hidden, unreported, undetected or unpunished. Some of them - such as poaching or poisoned baits - are even taken into account with understanding in some circles. In many cases, there is no one to report such an act and nature has no plaintiff. Rare species gradually disappear from the wild and it is up to us to choose if we ignore it or do something about it. Attentive eye of a person who sees wildlife crime happening in nature is just as important in this fight as the consistent actions of law enforcement agencies." - says Tereza Thompson from WWF-Slovakia
- Compile data on wildlife crime in 11 target countries and transfer our data to already existing, reliable databases on wildlife crime (where these are available) to enable access to information, improve comparison of data across Europe, and contribute to the work of law enforcement officers.
- Increase awareness, knowledge, and capacity of wildlife crime professionals (prosecutors and experts from enforcement agencies) in 11 target countries to improve national and cross-border governance concerning wildlife crime investigation and prosecution.
- Inform and drive meaningful changes to relevant national and European level policies to increase the recognition of wildlife crime, its seriousness and immense impact.
- Raise awareness of practitioners as well as of the public on wildlife crime.
"Trafficking, poaching and poisoning is detrimental for wildlife because of their cruel and unsustainable ways they operate. We often think that these actions happen only in faraway places with exotic species but in reality birds of prey poisoning, song bird and reptile trafficking or large carnivore poaching is regularly happening in our countries too. Therefore, we should help decision makers, judges and prosecutors to become more aware of these serious nature conservation issues." - says László Patkó, Head of Large Carnivore Programme, WWF-Hungary.
For more information:
Nada Tosheva, Regional Project Coordinator. WWF-Bulgaria