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Bringing an organized response to organized wildlife crime
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Doha, 24 March 2010 – Illegal trade in elephant ivory, precious timber, caviar, rare plants, rhinoceros horn and tiger skins and bones has been the subject of discussion by enforcement experts from Interpol, Customs and governments attending the triennial general assembly of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES). The illegal wildlife trade that take place around the world is often highly organized and sophisticated and can involve criminal gangs, armed with automatic weapons, who don’t hesitate to murder the wardens, game scouts or forest guards whose daily job it is to protect our planet’s natural resources.
“In the past, all too often, the response to such criminals has not been equally organized or sophisticated”, said Willem Wijnstekers, Secretary-General of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES). He was speaking as the 175 Parties to CITES meet in Doha, Qatar, for their 15th meeting of the Conference of the Parties. “We are determined that there will be a level playing field and that a new era of wildlife law enforcement is introduced. An era where those who rob countries and communities of their natural resources will face a determined and formidable opposition. It is high time that more wildlife criminals end up behind bars, where they belong,” he added.
Aiming to introduce this era is the recently-formed International Consortium on Combating Wildlife Crime (ICCWC). Made up of the CITES Secretariat, INTERPOL, the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, the World Bank and the World Customs Organization, the Consortium is engaging in a number of joint activities to bring wildlife criminals to justice. These include: a manual to help gather more intelligence when smugglers are arrested; threat assessment tools intended to help countries design their response to wildlife crime; specialized advice on dealing with money-laundering and asset recovery; guidance on the international exchange of information between enforcement agencies; and efforts to raise funds for national capacity-building.
With as few as 3,200 tigers left in the wild, with significant incidents of elephant ivory smuggling being noted, and with an increasing demand for rhinoceros horn in parts of Asia (where criminals claim it can cure cancer), a higher priority for wildlife law enforcement has never been more needed.
The CITES Secretariat continues to use its Alert system to provide risk-assessment, targeting and profiling intelligence to countries around the world. Since the last Conference of the Parties, alerts have been issued on such subjects as illegal trade in caviar, falcons and great apes, and smuggling techniques involving postal and courier services. The CITES Alerts are widely used to help Customs and other border control agencies intercept shipments of illegally-harvested wildlife being moved from one continent to another.
Note to journalists: The CITES Secretariat is organizing a 12h30 press briefing today in the Al Maha room where John M. Sellar, Chief of Enforcement in the Secretariat will be joined by Ms Shennie Patel of the United States Department of Justice.
For more information, contact Juan Carlos Vasquez at +974-4175621 or +974-5692804 (cell), or firstname.lastname@example.org
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