Saving the Tiger from Extinction
Requires a Criminal Justice Response
The International Tiger Forum
Intervention at the High Level Segment
St. Petersburg , Russia
23 November 2010
Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,
I would like to thank Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, the Russian Government, the Ministry of Natural Resources and Ecology, for hosting this historic forum. The United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has asked me to convey to you his strong support of this timely event. He welcomes this initiative and expects it to achieve tangible results.
The threat to tigers is clear and urgent. We must take action now to save them from extinction in the wild. Illicit trade in tigers (and other wildlife) is in essence one of the forms of transnational organized crime as well as trafficking in illegal drugs, weapons or human beings. And like most organized crime, it depends on corruption and flourishes when an appropriate legislative framework and institutional capacity are lacking.
The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime is the guardian of the UN Conventions against Transnational Organized Crime and Corruption. Thanks to our expertise based on UN standards and norms in crime prevention and criminal justice, combined with many years of experience helping States to fight crime, UNODC is well positioned to support the Tiger Range Countries. We can help them enhance their capacity to identify, trace, freeze and confiscate the proceeds of these activities; improve information sharing and enhance regional and international law enforcement cooperation.
In 2009, tiger skins retailed for up to $20,000, and bones were selling for up to $1,200 per kilogram. UNODC conservatively estimates that the annual market volume for tiger parts is about 150 tiger skins and about 1,500 kilograms of bones, with an estimated total market value of about $5 million. As we know, 150 tigers represent almost 5 percent of the remaining tigers in the wild. If we do no stop tiger trafficking now, criminals will drive this magnificent beast to extinction within a few short years.
Much tiger hunting is deliberate and systematic, and there is evidence that "commissioning" may occur. Well-organized groups are involved in wildlife poaching and trafficking across borders.
The tiger's endangered status is emblematic of the larger threat that transnational organized crime poses to the environment and sustainable development. Wildlife crime, like most organized crime, relies on the complicity of officials throughout the entire supply chain, from the forests that are its source, to border controls (especially in cross-border wilderness areas), to local authorities in the markets where illegal wildlife is sold. Wildlife crime frequently involves money laundering, fraud, counterfeiting and violence, and in some cases it may have links to terrorist activities or insurgencies.
And yet to date, the response of national authorities and the international community has not focused sufficiently on treating the illicit tiger trade as a criminal problem. The tools needed to fight cross-border trafficking have not been applied, and national law enforcement efforts have not been effectively linked to mainstream law enforcement. But all this can change if sufficient resolve and recognition emerge from this Forum.
Ending wildlife crime against tigers and other endangered species, particularly transnational trafficking, requires a coordinated global response. At the national level, we need to strengthen law enforcement capacity to deal with this and environmental crime more broadly. Internationally, we must encourage and develop a culture of cooperation and criminal intelligence sharing to stop transnational trafficking in endangered species. Only concerted law enforcement operations combined with capacity building will enable us to stop this criminal trade.
In November 2009, UNODC joined with the CITES Secretariat, INTERPOL, the World Customs Organization and the World Bank to develop a joint approach to help States combat wildlife crime. One year later, our organizations have formed the International Consortium on Combating Wildlife Crime. Tomorrow we will sign a Memorandum of Understanding which will be a start of our joint constructive work.
The Consortium will support national law enforcement agencies and regional wildlife law enforcement agreements, bodies and networks in responding to transnational wildlife crimes. We will provide expertise and resources and raise awareness of wildlife crimes in the law enforcement community at large. We will help countries review their current responses to wildlife crimes, facilitate multi-agency interaction and cooperation, and encourage effective responses throughout the criminal justice system.
The Consortium will also carry out research into the causes, nature, scale and value of wildlife crime, which will enable us to pinpoint where appropriate interventions can make a difference, and to develop innovative means of preventing and discouraging these crimes.
I would like to thank all of the Consortium partner organizations for their commitment to this urgent challenge. I would also like to thank the Tiger Range Countries and particularly the host of this important Forum, Russia, for their encouragement and support.
We still have a chance to reverse the trend toward extinction and help tigers to recover and repopulate their habitats in sustainable numbers. But we must take vigorous action now to ensure that in 12 years, in the next Year of the Tiger, we will see the first results of our joint work. I sincerely hope that this will be reflected in meaningful cooperation that will dramatically reduce illicit trade in tigers and tiger parts and save this splendid animal from extinction.