Why we must do more to stop wildlife crime

Funding for the Wildlife Crime Unit is under threat

Related Topics

Will it surprise you if I tell you that wildlife crime now ranks as the fourth biggest illegal trade after drugs, counterfeiting and people, in terms of profits?

It is a global economic crime perpetrated often by criminal organisations and it is linked to the illegal trafficking of drugs, people and even to terrorism. The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime calculated in 2011 that the total value of the illegal global wildlife trade was between $8bn to $10bn annually (excluding timber and marine wildlife).

London is a centre for criminals who abuse and traffic wildlife, which is why it's obvious that the Government, the Metropolitan Police and the Mayor of London should take this issue seriously. They don’t. Since I was elected to the London Assembly I have been lobbying the Met to properly fund and resource its Wildlife Crime Unit, but senior officers just don’t see it as core policing and its funding has been reduced by the Met, with the occasional threat of scrapping it altogether.

Now, yet again, the funding for this unit is under serious threat. That’s in spite of the fact that the unit does a huge amount of good work and gets the Met rare positive media coverage. Since 2012 the Wildlife Crime Unit has been partially funded by the World Society for the Protection of Animals (WSPA). The £100,000 a year of extra funding has ensured two critical staff posts, which have increased the effectiveness of the unit, and provided a small operational budget. However this funding will come to an end in April 2014.

The work the Wildlife Crime Unit does with the support of WSPA is fantastic, but it should not be left to charities to step in to enforce the law, especially against organised crime. It is one thing for a charity to start something off to demonstrate what can be achieved, but quite another to fully fund it.

The officers and staff need to concentrate on stopping the illegal trade of animals and the acts of harm perpetrated against them, rather than spending each year worrying their unit may be disbanded because of a lack of funding. The London Assembly united behind a motion calling on the Mayor to ensure long term funding for this unit. In my view, this area is core policing and should be treated as a priority.

Apart from wildlife crime generating lots of money for criminal gangs, the trade of endangered species is threatening some of the planet’s most iconic animals with extinction: for example, elephants, rhinos and tigers. As well as the illegal trade of animals, wildlife crime also covers acts of harm to local wildlife such as swans, deer and birds. This is a global problem which survives by exploiting local people and taking advantage of lax enforcement.

Whether it’s animals, insects, birds or bees, these are all creatures that enable us to live on this planet, but who have a right to life for their own survival. Respect for our environment and its ecology is necessary for us to survive, plus I think any human act that abuses wildlife is a bad reflection on us all.

I know money is tight and that in policing there are always competing priorities. Of course £100,000 sounds a lot of money but in the context of a global illegal trade with an estimated value of $19billion, it starts to look like money well spent. It is essential that we do what we can to enforce the laws we have and to drive those criminals, who make millions by exploiting animals, out of business. If we don’t, then we must account to future generations on how we allowed criminal organisations to drive whole species to extinction.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Finance Director

£65000 - £80000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Finance Director required to jo...

Recruitment Genius: Medico-Legal Assistant

£15000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a unique opportunity fo...

Ashdown Group: (PHP / Python) - Global Media firm

£50000 per annum + 26 days holiday,pension: Ashdown Group: A highly successful...

The Jenrick Group: Quality Inspector

£27000 per annum + pension + holidays: The Jenrick Group: A Quality Technician...

Day In a Page

Read Next
David Cameron faces the press as he arrives in Brussels for the EU leaders summit on Thursday reuters  

On the Tusk of a dilemma: Cameron's latest EU renegotiation foe

Andrew Grice
John Profumo and his wife Valerie Robson in 1959  

Stephen Ward’s trial was disgraceful. There can be no justification for it

Geoffrey Robertson QC
Homeless Veterans appeal: 'You look for someone who's an inspiration and try to be like them'

Homeless Veterans appeal

In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
Could cannabis oil reverse the effects of cancer?

Could cannabis oil reverse effects of cancer?

As a film following six patients receiving the controversial treatment is released, Kate Hilpern uncovers a very slippery issue
The Interview movie review: You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here

The Interview movie review

You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here
Serial mania has propelled podcasts into the cultural mainstream

How podcasts became mainstream

People have consumed gripping armchair investigation Serial with a relish typically reserved for box-set binges
Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up for hipster marketing companies

Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up

Kevin Lee Light, aka "Jesus", is the newest client of creative agency Mother while rival agency Anomaly has launched Sexy Jesus, depicting the Messiah in a series of Athena-style poses
Rosetta space mission voted most important scientific breakthrough of 2014

A memorable year for science – if not for mice

The most important scientific breakthroughs of 2014
Christmas cocktails to make you merry: From eggnog to Brown Betty and Rum Bumpo

Christmas cocktails to make you merry

Mulled wine is an essential seasonal treat. But now drinkers are rediscovering other traditional festive tipples. Angela Clutton raises a glass to Christmas cocktails
5 best activity trackers

Fitness technology: 5 best activity trackers

Up the ante in your regimen and change the habits of a lifetime with this wearable tech
Paul Scholes column: It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves

Paul Scholes column

It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves
Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Club World Cup kicked into the long grass by the continued farce surrounding Blatter, Garcia, Russia and Qatar
Frank Warren column: 2014 – boxing is back and winning new fans

Frank Warren: Boxing is back and winning new fans

2014 proves it's now one of sport's biggest hitters again
Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton: The power dynamics of the two first families

Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton

Karen Tumulty explores the power dynamics of the two first families
Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley with a hotbed of technology start-ups

Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley

The Swedish capital is home to two of the most popular video games in the world, as well as thousands of technology start-ups worth hundreds of millions of pounds – and it's all happened since 2009
Did Japanese workers really get their symbols mixed up and display Santa on a crucifix?

Crucified Santa: Urban myth refuses to die

The story goes that Japanese store workers created a life-size effigy of a smiling "Father Kurisumasu" attached to a facsimile of Our Lord's final instrument of torture
Jennifer Saunders and Kate Moss join David Walliams on set for TV adaptation of The Boy in the Dress

The Boy in the Dress: On set with the stars

Walliams' story about a boy who goes to school in a dress will be shown this Christmas