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Wildlife trafficking reduces biodiversity, unbalances ecosystems and endangers the survival of numerous animal species such as tiger and sharks and plant species such as tropical timber and orchids.
In recent years wildlife trafficking has reached unprecedented levels due to the increase in global demand for wildlife and related products.
Organised criminal groups are increasingly engaging in wildlife trafficking as the risk of detection is low and the financial rewards are high. The proceeds are often used to finance militia and terrorist groups.
Smuggled wildlife products can also be sold through legal channels, for example by using fraudulent paperwork, so consumers might not be aware of their illegal origin.
The European Union is not only a major destination market for illegal wildlife products, but also serves as a transit hub for trafficking to other regions. Certain species in the EU, such as European glass eels, are also subject to wildlife trafficking.
EU action plan
Earlier this year the European Commission launched an action plan on wildlife trafficking, which the EU and its member states have until 2020 to implement.
Parliament’s environment committee votes on Thursday 13 October on an own-initiative report by Catherine Bearder on the action plan. “It is the shared responsibility of EU member states to step up to the challenge and tackle this organised and destructive crime that is destabilising so many parts of the world,” said Bearder, a UK member of the ALDE group.
The action plan has three priorities: prevention, enforcement and cooperation. “The action plan must prevent wildlife trafficking and address its root causes,” said Bearder, adding: “We must ensure effective implementation and enforcement of existing rules.” Regarding cooperation, the MEP stressed the importance of global cooperation between countries where the animals lived, the transit countries and the countries where the products were being bought.