Vienna, 03 March 2015 - Wildlife crime is slowly stealing the world around us and selling it to the highest bidder. It is an activity without remorse that cares only for the quick profits of today, while ignoring the terrible losses of tomorrow.
Animals are being senselessly slaughtered every day for their body parts or stolen from their natural habitats and trafficked to satisfy the exotic pet trade. In other parts of the world, vast swathes of forest are being destroyed to make expensive furniture or other wood products.
The damage that this worldwide predation does to our environment and global biodiversity is staggering. An estimated 1,215 rhinos were poached in South Africa in 2014; while in the last decade, 1,000 rangers have been killed in the global struggle to protect wildlife.
Up to 30 per cent of the global timber trade is also estimated to be illicit and tropical deforestation now adds up to 10-15 per cent of global emissions. Like the damage done to conservation and the environment, the human cost is also prohibitive. Wildlife crime and attendant corruption remove funds from social and economic development and threaten people's livelihoods, as well as national security.
To confront this crime that generates billions of dollars in profits each year, and uses many of the same smuggling routes as drug and human trafficking, the risk of detection needs to be increased. Greater cooperation and coordination is needed, and policy makers and law enforcement agencies must prioritise this crime as a matter of urgency. Public awareness and education is also needed to curb demand.
On World Wildlife Day, I call on the international community to recognize that wildlife crime is a crime under the UN Convention against Transnational Organized Crime that continues to grow in size and scope. Any sanctions must adequately reflect this.
I also urge the international community to acknowledge that this is an intergenerational crime and that the offences committed today are denying the heritage of this beautiful planet to future generations. Everyone becomes impoverished because of this activity. To confront this crime we need to join a global partnership united by the same belief: it's time to get serious about wildlife crime.
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