SINGAPORE – Wildlife crime is a global concern, and these illicit activities can encompass many sectors and industries.
The consequences of wildlife crime are equally far-reaching, not only affecting the environment but also economies, communities and societies. Such multi-sector challenges require a multi-sector solution.
During the 30th meeting of the INTERPOL Wildlife Crime Working Group, some 160 participants from police, government agencies, international organizations, the transport and financial sectors, academia and social media companies gathered to review the latest environmental threats, trafficking trends and challenges to tackling the criminal networks behind such crime.
The meeting looked at how wildlife crime can implicate industries beyond those which focus on the environment, such as illegal trade via air, land and sea transport systems or the illicit sale of animals and wildlife products online. For the first time, representatives of these sectors were invited to offer their perspectives and build relationships with law enforcement.
With participants representing 45 countries from all regions of the world, the week-long (18 – 22 November) meeting was an opportunity to share different viewpoints on wildlife crime and different ways of approaching potential solutions.
Highlighting the challenges of fighting wildlife crime, INTERPOL’s Assistant Director of Illicit Markets Daoming Zhang said: “We see animals and their parts trafficked using ships and airplanes, sold online via the Darknet and the illicit profits unknowingly passed through financial institutions.
“It is clear that the only way to truly eradicate these crimes and protect the world’s wildlife is through a united effort bringing together all stakeholders to develop multi-sector solutions,” he concluded.
Topics on the agenda also included forestry crime, financial crimes associated with wildlife trafficking, challenges of transnational enforcement and operations, and wildlife crime training efforts.
Case examples presented included the recent INTERPOL-World Customs Organization coordinated Operation Thunderball. The global operation against wildlife and forestry crime resulted in the seizure of protected wildlife products including 545 kg of ivory, 1.3 tonnes of pangolin scales, some 9,700 live turtles and tortoises, 604 tonnes of timber, as well as the arrest of nearly 600 people worldwide.
"To continue the momentum of recent years, we need to challenge the thinking about how we fight wildlife crime,” said Dylan Swain, the new Wildlife Crime Working Group chairman. "The opportunity for enforcement agencies to come together with NGOs, civil society and academia enables us to share and develop new approaches to tackling the illegal trade in wildlife."
Some of the discussions were open to the civil society partners to encourage engagement between all stakeholders, while others were restricted to law enforcement agencies for the exchange of intelligence and case-related information.
During the meeting, the Working Group presented awards to one law enforcement and one civil society group in recognition of their outstanding work in wildlife conservation.
The participants also elected a new Executive Board to guide the Working Group’s activities during the coming years.