Supporting efforts to address the illegal wildlife trade
With a strong track record of supporting wildlife conservation, predominantly through strategies of working with local people to take pressure off endangered species and their habitat, it wasn’t too long before Landscape Conservation became involved with efforts to address the illegal wildlife trade (IWT), along with a growing body of organisations understanding that unless the growing IWT business was tackled, the world was in danger of losing many species of animal and plant, with profits from the trade funding organised crime
Supporting Efforts to Address the Illegal Wildlife Trade (IWT)
Typically, the strategic focus for many of the efforts to address the IWT has been to increase law enforcement efforts. This is recognised as a main priority for action, and LC applauds the efforts of donors, NGOs, private organisations and government authorities that have put huge effort into tackling wildlife crime through enforcement – often at great personal risk of the people carrying out the work.
The one area that LC believes it can help best is with supporting the management of live animals and plants that have been confiscated as a result of law enforcement action. Destined for the illegal pet and zoo trade, the ‘build up’ of rescued individual animals and plants can be an increasing burden that threatens to create a ‘road block’ for the confiscating authorities. Unless provision can be made to manage the animals and plants coming into care such that is always provision to take them, the confiscation of animals and plants will result in poor welfare, risk of disease, hybridisation of indigenous species through poorly-managed releases and escapes, and a drain on resources for care that could be deployed elsewhere.
Recognising the increasing burden on governments, rescue centres and zoos in the care of confiscated, live animals and plants, the Director of LC was tasked by the IUCN to lead the process of updating the IUCN Guidelines for the Disposal of Live Animals, which was originally produced between 1999 and 2002, to ensure the Guidelines reflected the current situation.
Between 2013 and 2016 the Director of LC undertook a widespread consultation process to make sure that the updated Guidelines took into account need and best practice. The newly entitled ‘IUCN Guidelines for the Management of Confiscated, Live Organisms’ (the wording to reflect that although animals may take the headlines, there is a significant trade in wild plants that threatens species conservation) include an updated decision tree for rapid processing. Ably supported by the IUCN Specialist Groups, the updated Guidelines were signed off by IUCN Council at the World Conservation Congress in 2016. A further two year consultation process took place to ensure that IUCN membership were satisfied with the amended Guidelines. Shortly after October 2018, following the 2nd International Conference on the Illegal Wildlife Trade (London), the final format of the Guidelines was launched and made available via the IUCN website. You can download the Guidelines here.
On the ground, Landscape Conservation and its partners are working with the government authorities in Africa (Cameroon) and Asia (Philippines) to look at ways that current practice of managing can be adapted to reflect the best practice as set out in the Guidelines. Our goal is to ensure that the burden of managing live, confiscated organisms does not hinder the authorities in carrying their critically important work of being able to stop the illegal pet trade due to having nowhere to place the resulting animals and plants.
Watch this space for updates on this important element of our work.