Menu
All about forests, rivers, oceans
Australia orders Japanese whalers to stay away
Esther Woolfson's urban nature diary
Ladbrokes is gambling with fish extinction and so is the government
US wildlife officials propose endangered status for wolverines
The hare's death-scream tells of a history soon over
The ethics of keeping a killer cat
It's as if the landscape and stream are caught amid their own owl dreams
Many more seabirds may be affected by Channel pollution, RSPB says
Leading paper firm pledges to halt Indonesian deforestation
Fishing campaigners urge MEPs to vote for discards reform
Dog attack law to be extended to cover incidents on private property
The return of grey wolves 'not enough to restore Yellowstone's ecosystem'
Oil additive polymer PIB may be responsible for seabird deaths
MEPs vote to ban discards in historic reform of fishing policy
All dogs in England to be microchipped by 2016
Some of nature's mysteries are all the better for going unsolved
First the internet, now Monopoly cats have got our attention
Polar bears 'may need to be fed by humans to survive'
Invasive mussel poses ecological and economic threat to island community
Ancestor of humans and other mammals was small furry insect eater
Conflict in DRC Congo threatens chimpanzee tourism programme
The intruder, a raven, passed through the treetops into view
The horsemeat scandal: could there be much more to come?
Circuses remove last of the big cats from UK's big tops
  Tackling the illegal trade in wild animals is a matter of global urgency
Illegal trade in wildlife has now reached a scale that poses an immediate risk to wildlife and to people. Over the past five years, we have seen a dramatic spike in the poaching and illegal trade in elephants and rhinos. In 2011 an estimated 25,000 elephants were poached across Africa and in South Africa alone 668 rhinos were lost to poachers in 2012.

The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) was born 40 years ago on 3 March, 1973 in Washington DC. It sets the global controls for trade in wildlife, and the 177 countries that have joined CITES will meet from Monday in Bangkok, Thailand to take stock of of the situation, step up enforcement efforts and send clear political signals on putting a stop to illegal wildlife trade.

Today's wildlife crime increasing involves organised crime syndicates, and in some cases rebel militia. These criminals operate across national borders and through international shipment routes; have significant financial support; understand and utilise new technologies, and are often well-armed. They do not hesitate to use violence or threats of violence against those who try to stand in their way, and constantly adapt their tactics to avoid detection and prosecution.

In doing so, they exploit people in some of the poorest countries of the world, corrupt officials and kill and injure wildlife officers.

This poses a serious threat to the stability and economy of these countries, robs them of their natural resources and cultural heritage, and undermines good governance and the rule of law. These criminals are laundering their ill-gotten gains and in some instances, use them to finance armed conflicts and other criminal activities, with the UN Security Council recently linking the Lord's Resistance Army to the illicit trade in ivory in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. They must be stopped.

Wildlife crime can be attractive to criminal gangs due to the lower risk of detection and prosecution, and it often carries relatively low penalties. Wildlife officers serving in the frontline are being outgunned and they need support from police, and sometimes the military, as well as the international community.

It is time to treat wildlife crime as serious crime and to deploy the techniques used to combat illicit trade in narcotics, such as undercover operations and "controlled deliveries" meaning contraband is not seized but tracked to its destination.

This will enable the masterminds in this illegal trade to be identified, prosecuted and convicted. Bringing this destructive activity to an end will require harsh penalties, including making sure these criminals do not profit from their crimes. These enforcement measures need to be coupled with well-targeted public awareness campaigns to help suppress demand for illegal goods.

While the challenges we face today are real and serious they should not overshadow our conservation successes through ensuring legal, sustainable and traceable trade in some species - such as with the African cherry, the Latin American vicuna, crocodiles and the Queen conch, where their survival in the wild was assured when their bark, wool, skins and meat, respectively, became legally and sustainably managed, with tangible benefits for local communities.

The recovery of the African elephant and the rhino over recent decades - and in particular the white rhino, has also been a great conservation success. White rhino population numbers in Africa have risen from about 2,000 in 1973 to over 19,000 in 2012, with South Africa having conserved more than 90% of this total. But these successes are now under grave threat, which serves to demonstrate that we cannot take anything for granted.

With a combination of conservation measures, strong enforcement, public awareness and adequate resources we can reverse the current alarming trends. This is why CITES is working with Interpol, the UN Office of Drugs and Crime, the World Bank and the World Customs Organisation to support source, transit and destination countries in combatting this serious crime.

We know the way, now we need the collective will. The CITES World Wildlife Conference opening next week in Bangkok is when we must come together to turn the tables on wildlife crime.
In the British countryside, alien species are not always undesirables
Pandas keep Scotland guessing over mating game
US plan to control Guam's snake population with toxic mice angers Peta
African lions the killer kings in mortal danger from man and sham medicine
EU fish discards deal welcomed by UK
Pilot badger culls set to go ahead
Scientist calls Hugh's Fish Fight 'a tawdry piece of hack journalism'
A couple of interesting visitors have arrived at the lakes in the past week
Sea Shepherd conservation group declared 'pirates' in US court ruling
Schmallenberg virus found in farm animals in almost all of Britain
Gardens: wildlife surveys
Tackling the illegal trade in wild animals is a matter of global urgency
100 million sharks killed each year, say scientists
The snipe's 'drumming' sound is perfectly evocative of Welsh hill country
Sharks at risk of extinction from overfishing, say scientists
Thailand's prime minister pledges to outlaw domestic ivory trade
Humans are not the only animals to enjoy alcohol
China must send a clear message to consumers on ivory trade
Google shopping adverts fuel ivory trade, conservation group warns
Two-thirds of forest elephants killed by ivory poachers in past decade
US and Russia unite in bid to strengthen protection for polar bear
Blackbird singing in the dead of night
Above the loch, the scene was dominated by the abundant birch trees
Lion kills intern at California animal sanctuary
Bid to halt polar bear trade fails
Deer culling on massive scale backed by expert
Scores on the paws: how one man changed the shape of dogs to come
Cites: bid to curb sale of ivory and rhino horn voted down
Menu
Geoffrey Matthews obituary
World's largest captive crocodile dies in Philippines
Urban foxes: the facts and the fiction
Albatross astonishes scientists by producing chick at age of 62
Knut the polar bear lifesize model to go on show in Berlin
Horsemeat scandal: Owner of Yorkshire abattoir denies wrongdoing
Foxes' friends and foes say an urban cull is not the answer
Golfer pierces leg with tee to remove spider venom then finishes round
Chinese appetite for shark fin soup devastating Mozambique coastline
A peregrine stands on one foot and imperiously looks out from her ledge
Action on dangerous dogs has been 'woefully inadequate', MPs warn
Why Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall's Fish Fight is still necessary
What the horsemeat scandal and fish quotas tell us about Europe
New to nature No 99: Phagocata flamenca
We can overlook the aesthetics of gulls, but they make grey beautiful again
Birdwatch: Stonechat
Environment Pollution Pollution that killed seabirds cannot be traced, rules investigation
Communities of voices the link between birdsong and spoken language
Bid to solve mystery of 50,000 red-breasted geese lost in migration
How a ferret took me on a journey to a saner world
Panda eyes focused as Yang Guang and Tian Tian seek each other out
So entrancing are the clouds that the deer are unnoticed until I shift my gaze
Anyone for camelcino? Camel milk set to be big business for east Africa
Red squirrel finds pine marten a fearsome ally in its fight for survival