Wildlife trafficking: putting ‘the nexus’ in global development

Tom Roche makes the case that all of us – student groups, teachers, woodwork folk, parents and professionals – should be making online submissions to the European Commission’s public consultation on combating wildlife trafficking, which closes on the 10th April.


Photo:Government held rhino horn stockpile © Simon Milledge / TRAFFIC
Photo: Government held rhino horn stockpile © Simon Milledge / TRAFFIC

Events marking the first World Wildlife Day took place in numerous countries around the globe on Monday 3rd March 2014. The purpose of World Wildlife Day is to raise awareness of the escalating and damaging international trade in wildlife parts.

It is very important that the significance of wildlife trafficking is fully understood and put in context of the larger international debate in global development issues: it undermines efforts to reduce abject poverty, it facilitates corruption and it finances international terrorism and armed conflict.

On 13th February 2014, London was host to a high-level summit to tackle the illegal wildlife trade.  On 3rd March 2014, at a less high level platform, Just Forests highlighted the links between declining wildlife and development issues in a presentation and workshop to the next generation of furniture graduates at GMIT Letterfrack, the National Furniture College.

World Wildlife Day coincided with the first anniversary of the EU Timber Regulation (EUTR) which bans the importation of illegally-logged timber and wood-based products into the EU, which became law on Sunday 3rd March 2013

Making presentations on the progress in securing the EUTR is vital if the regulations are to have any impact on the environmental, economic and social impacts of illegal-logging, which Just Forests plays a part in continuing.

The European Commission has called on the public across Europe to make online submissions on how the EU can be more effective in combatting wildlife trafficking , which closes on the 10th April, 2014 [more details on the consultation below].

Wildlife trafficking

Wildlife trafficking is the illegal cross-border trade in biological resources taken from the wild, including trade in timber and marine species. Trading in wildlife and wildlife ‘parts’ is not new: it has been around for centuries, but its scale, nature and impacts have changed considerably in recent years. After gas and oil wood is one of the largest traded (both domestically and internationally) natural renewable resource in the world.

Trading in wildlife is devastating not just the environment but it is also destroying communities by harboring corruption and fear in states where terrorism is part of daily life. Another aspect of illegal wildlife trafficking is that it often targets ‘flag ship’ species such as elephants and mahogany.

‘Flagships are generally high profile and charismatic species that may play a significant ecological role and often have important cultural associations. Flagship species act as symbols for the threats to the broader ecosystem in which they occur, and can thus act as catalysts for wide-ranging conservation activities.’ (Source: Flora and Fauna International)

Crime of the dance: a case study in white gold in Ireland

The number of elephants illegally slaughtered in Africa for their ivory has risen from 10,000 a decade ago to a staggering 22,000 in 2012. We often come across ivory in our travels as tourists and may not always realize how our purchases of souvenirs are contribution to the illegal trade.

The recent burglary of a rhino horn from the County Cork home of Lord of the Dance, Michael Flatley, opens up an issue of international trade that should be taken very seriously by each and every one of us.

The proceeds from wildlife trafficking is now a major source of income for criminal gangs in Ireland.  Mr Flatley’s recent ordeal is testimony to this. His rhino horn is estimated to be worth €200,000.  Can you imagine what a small Irish NGO, hospital or community group could do with that amount of money?

Rhino horn often referred to as ‘white gold’ is now more valuable that gold fetching as much as €40,000 per kilo.  Has the more affluent amongst us the right to purchase animal parts and showcase them to let their friends know just how wealthy they are?

The scale of wildlife crime – respond to the EU consultation

On a global scale wildlife crime is ranked third after drugs and arms trafficking and amounts to a staggering US$20Billion annually.

This is an absolutely shocking figure.

Just Forests welcomes the recent announcement by EU Environment Commissioner Janez Potoanik, for public submissions on wildlife trafficking and believes we must ask ourselves if the more affluent amongst us has a right to purchase animal parts and showcase them to let their friends know just how wealthy they are?

In a statement from the Commission it states,

‘Wildlife crime is highly lucrative, and prosecutions are rare. The growing demand for illegal products has devastating consequences for a number of species already under threat. The changing scale of the problem has raised questions about how the EU can be more effective in fighting against wildlife trafficking. The Commission is therefore seeking views on ten questions related to wildlife trafficking, including the adequacy of the current framework, tools that might strengthen existing efforts to fight the problem, how the EU in particular can help, improving our knowledge and data, and the possibility of stronger sanctions.’

The deadline for on-line submissions to the call for Public Consultation on how the EU can be more effective in combating wildlife trafficking  is 10th April, 2014, and you can access it here: https://ec.europa.eu/environment/consultations/wildlife_trafficking_en.htm

We must make the connections between our purchases of wildlife parts and the broader issues of sustainability and development. Putting the ‘nexus’** at the centre of all we do and responding to consultations like this is an important start.


**According to the Oxford dictionary the word ‘nexus’ –noun (pl. same or nexes)1. a connection or series of connections linking two or more things: the nexus between industry and political power, a connected group or series: a nexus of ideas2. a central or focal point: the nexus of any government in this country is Dail     EireannORIGIN mid 17th cent: from Latin, ‘a binding together’,  from nex-‘bound’, from the verb nectare.