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The seizure of wildlife products has more than doubled from 2011 to 2015, with shells, seahorses, corals and butterflies among the items being seized at the country’s borders.
Figures from the Department of Conservation showed the number of seizures were up from 2,268 in 2011 to 5,809 in 2015.
Over the four years from 2007 to 2011, 13,000 wildlife seizures were reported in total. This cumulative figure rose to 19,221 for the next four-year period ending in 2015.
Environmental policy analyst Fiona Gordon said despite the high rates of seizures no-one was fined in the four years to 2015, and there were only eight prosecutions under New Zealand’s Trade in Endangered Species Act.
The Government has introduced a bill into Parliament earlier this year, that if passed would create a system for infringements.
Gordon said it “wouldn’t bring back to life the thousands of animals and plants that have already fallen victim to the illegal trade, but can serve as a penalty and as a deterrent against future wildlife trafficking”.
“Making sure that customs and border officials have the right enforcement tools is one of the key actions needed to implement the multi-faceted strategy for combating wildlife crime, worldwide.
She said wildlife trafficking is linked to environmental, developmental, poverty, terrorism and international security issues.
Gordon referenced a 2013 report by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime that the Pacific is increasingly becoming a source and transit region for illegal wildlife trafficking.
The report labelled New Zealand as a destination country for endangered species from Southeast Asia and the Pacific Islands.
One of the most recent wildlife trafficking prosecutions in New Zealand was for the illegal importation of elephant ivory.
In 2015 a Napier man was convicted in relation to the illegal importation of about US$12,614 worth of ivory into New Zealand.