Wildlife Crime

Written evidence submitted by the Environmental Investigation Agency


· Wildlife trade is a form of serious, transnational organised crime with devastating effects on the global environment.

· EIA has over 20 years experience of investigating and campaigning on this trade.

· The UK plays an important role in tackling global trade, both domestically and through its involvement in intergovernmental bodies such as the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES).

· EIA urges the UK to maintain and increase support for relevant units to tackle wildlife crime in the UK.

· EIA urges the UK and its EU partners to provide support to relevant international bodies like INTERPOL Environmental Crime Programme to improve the international response to wildlife crime.

· The UK and its EU partners should continue to push for full implementation of relevant CITES Decisions and Recommendations relating to the trade in Asian Big Cat parts and derivatives.

· In light of the ongoing surge in illegal ivory trade, and the failure of China’s ivory trade control mechanisms, EIA urges the UK and its EU partners to call for an immediate independent review of China’s domestic ivory trade control, regulation and implementation.

· EIA has been requested to provide oral testimony with specific reference to the ivory trade, and its happy to do so.

1. The Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA) is a UK-based non-governmental organisation. EIA is dedicated to exposing and combating environmental crime, and since its inception in 1984 has pioneered investigative techniques to document several major types of environmental crime and abuse; illegal logging and trade in illicit timber, wildlife trafficking, climate change and the smuggling of environmentally-harmful chemicals and waste.

2. EIA has spent more than twenty years documenting illegal and unsustainable trade in wildlife products, with a particular focus on Asian big cat parts and derivatives and the illegal trade in ivory, which are sourced in Asia and Africa and smuggled to end markets in East Asia and elsewhere. This work has involved field investigations in India, Nepal, China, Vietnam, Thailand, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Zambia, Tanzania, Kenya, Mozambique, the US and European Union. In addition to investigations EIA has carried out comprehensive capacity building for local NGOs and communities across Tanzania, which has yielded valuable intelligence on the wildlife trade in that region. EIA played a unique role in achieving the original ivory ban in 1989 and has monitored the situation closely ever since.

3. EIA’s unique experience of the illegal wildlife trade makes it well placed to provide pertinent information to the inquiry. EIA will limit its submission to several main areas, as laid out below;

Background to the illegal wildlife trade

4. The illegal wildlife trade represents one of the most serious threats to global biodiversity.

5. The UN General Assembly, UN ECOSOC, UN Commission on Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice and INTERPOL have all recognised that wildlife crime is a form of serious, organised transnational crime, with high profits, low risks of detection and weak penalties, it attracts serious criminals that may use proceeds of wildlife crime to finance other forms of crime threaten security. The same individuals, logistics and trafficking routes used by wildlife criminals are also used to move other contraband. Corruption is a common feature of wildlife crime in many parts of the world. Convictions of those arrested should include the seizure of assets and proceeds of wildlife crime, along with penalties sufficient to shift the high profit – low risk equation of wildlife crime.

6. Illegal killing of elephants and the trade in ivory is driven by demand for ivory products in East Asia, largely China and Thailand, although demand exists in other countries, including local demand in Africa and secondary demand from other countries such as the USA and UK.

7. Illegal poaching of Asian big cats is driven by demand for wildlife products in consumer nations, the largest of which is China. Wealth and status are key demand drivers, as Asian big cat products are consumed in several ways. Tiger, leopard and snow leopard skins are used for luxury décor, taxidermy and clothing, while bones, whiskers, teeth, fat and penises are used in traditional Asian medicine and in the general tonic and souvenir trade.

8. Tiger, leopard, Asiatic lion, clouded leopard and snow leopard and their parts and derivatives are all listed on Appendix 1 of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species, meaning that all international trade in products containing parts of these animals is illegal without a permit, which can only be issued under limited circumstances.

9. China State Council Order 1993, No.39 makes it illegal to trade tiger bone within China.

10. The sale of Asian big cat skins is allowed within China, provided a permit is issued by the State Forestry Administration. Notification 2006, issued in 2007 by the SFA, appears to make it possible to obtain a license for animals obtained from legal sources, including captive-bred animals.

11. Currently there are more than 5000 tigers in captivity in breeding centres in China and elsewhere in South East Asia. There is evidence that these centres continue to provide tiger products to the market illegally. Conservations believe that these tiger ‘farms’ or breeding centres are stimulating demand for wild tiger products and confusing the legal situation, hampering law enforcement. CITES Decision 14.69 adopted in 2007 with the support of the UK and the EU states: ‘tigers should not be bred for trade in their parts and derivatives.’

12. Asian elephants are listed on CITES Appendix I, while African populations are listed on both Appendix I and Appendix II, depending on where they are located. This has been done to allow limited international trade in ivory from Southern African elephant range states. This trade has been conducted through two ‘one-off sales’ of stockpiled ivory in 1999 (50 tonnes) and 2008 (100 tonnes) to approved buyers in Japan and China. These sales have done nothing to reduce the illegal trade and evidence suggests that they may have increased demand for illegal ivory by creating legal confusion. Recent estimates suggest that up to 90% of the ivory on sale in China is illegal.

13. The number of large ivory seizures (>500 kg), specifically through 2009 to date [1] , continues to be an issue, and African elephant populations, particularly those in Central and Western Africa and many populations in Asia, continue to be vulnerable. Between 2009 and 2011, at least 50 tonnes of illegal ivory were seized, with the indication that much was destined for China.

14. Ivory from the second one off legal stockpile sale (2008) was bought for an average of US$157 per kilo [2] . The intention expressed prior to the CITES-approved one-off sales was that the aim was to reduce ivory prices and thereby countermand the need for illegal trade. However for Chinese State Forestry Administration (SFA) accredited (and therefore ‘legal’) traders, purchase prices for raw ivory from this Government-owned, legal stockpile are as much as US $1,500 per kilo. This price is reflected in the retail prices of ivory products in accredited retail outlets in Guangzhou such as the Government-owned Friendship Store and represents a massive mark-up [3] . Recent reports indicate that prices have escalated as much as ten-fold since 2005 [4] . This is completely contrary to the view expressed by proponents of the one-off sales before they happened, and has demonstrated the flawed rationale behind allowing the one-off sales.

15. The demand for illegal ivory, which undercuts the legal prices, has now soared and the illegal traders are cashing in. This is further supported by countless, documented, seizures of illegal ivory indicating China as a destination.

16. A number of African elephant Range State countries have also reported significant increases in elephant poaching and the smuggling of ivory in, through and across their borders. Illegal killing in of elephants in many parts of Central Africa have risen to alarming levels and Kenya, Botswana, Mozambique, Zambia and Zimbabwe are all feeling the pressure of increased poaching [5] .

17. The organisation which manages the Elephant Trade Information System for CITES (Convention on the International Trade in Endangered Species) recently announced that 2011 has been the worst year for large ivory seizures since 1989 [6] .

UK response to wildlife crime

18. The UK remains a destination for products containing ivory and Asian big cat parts and derivatives. It may also be a source or transit point for ‘antique’ wildlife products heading to consumers in East Asia. Additionally there have been seizures of skins of tigers, along with taxidermy specimens, some of which have been the specimens of captive bred tigers that have entered into trade illegally in the UK. While these were most likely sourced from within the EU they are important indicators of demand for products from endangered species.

19. The UK has an active role in combating the illegal trade in ivory and in Asian big cat parts and derivatives. It is currently a member of the Standing Committee of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES), a member of the Global Tiger Forum (GTF) and is currently Chair of the Coalition Against Wildlife Trade (CAWT). It has taken an active role in the Global Tiger Initiative (GTI) and in worldwide activities to tackle wildlife crime. The UK is a significant donor to international efforts to combat Asian big cat trade, and most recently, under DEFRA, has contributed £75,000 to INTERPOL’s Project Predator [7] and £312,000 to the GTI multi-lateral donor fund.

20. The launch of Operation Charm in 1994, by the Metropolitan Police Wildlife Crime Unit (WCU), has made a huge and positive impact on the current availability of products labelled as containing tiger and other Asian big cats in London and other major cities of the UK. The UK’s recent participation in INTERPOLs Operation TRAM shows that nonetheless it is important to maintain this effort, with TRAM resulting in the seizure of parts and products claiming to contain tiger / leopard.

21. The Metropolitan Police Wildlife Crime Unit (WCU) and the National Wildlife Crime Unit (NWCU) are widely recognised and respected as examples of good practice in wildlife crime enforcement, and have been involved in exchanges and training with other law enforcement agencies in other parts of the world. Along with the UK Border Agency and DEFRA’s Animal Health Inspectorate, the Units have engaged with civil society to establish UK Wildlife Crime priorities. The multi-agency approach and engagement with NGOs offers an excellent working model to the countries where UK is investing aid to address wildlife crime, including under DEFRA’s Darwin Initiative grants and DFID’s FLEGT grants.

22. The UK has provided £40,000 to the new International Consortium to Combat Wildlife Crime (ICCWC) – an initiative of Interpol, CITES Secretariat, World Custom’s Organisation, UN Office on Drugs and Crime and the World Bank Stolen Assets Recovery Division.

Recommendations for activities to improve enforcement response to wildlife crime

23. EIA urges the UK government to ensure that funding and resources to the National Wildlife Crime Unit, the Metropolitan Police Wildlife Crime Unit , DEFRA’s Animal Health Inspectorate and relevant sections of the National Borders Agency are maintained and expanded to a level that ensures they can continue to undertake and develop intelligence-led enforcement and inter-agency cooperation, to help combat crime wildlife crime and maintain an example to other countries. This will be particularly important in light of the new EU timber regulations which are due to enter into force , and which could place additional requirements on these units.

24. EIA urges the UK to continue to support measures to conserve Asian Big Cats at CITES, and to seek the full implementation of existing Decisions and resolution relating to ABC conservation including Res. Conf 12.5 (rev. COP15) on enforcement measures and Decision 14.69, which states that tigers should not be bred for trade in their parts and derivatives.

25. EIA urges the UK to continue to support international efforts to improve wildlife crime enforcement, and in particular to provide funding to the INTERPOL Environmental Crime Programme (ECP) to ensure its sustainability as a mechanism for the swift and secure exchange of nominal criminal intelligence and the coordination of international operations to combat the transnational organised wildlife crime networks. EIA would encourage the UK to increase its contributions through core funding, from the Home Office to the INTERPOL ECP. EIA would also urge the UK to work with its European partners to ensure additional core funding for the INTERPOL ECP.

26. The International Consortium to Combat Wildlife Crime (see 22 above) is developing a toolkit to assess gaps in enforcement and related infrastructure. EIA would urge the UK to engage in a self-assessment using this toolkit to aid in the process. This could provide useful information and also an important test-bed for this toolkit. As part of this process EIA urges the UK to take the lead in developing ‘indicators of enforcement’ as this is an area of implementation and reporting which is traditionally very poor at the intergovernmental level.

27. EIA recognises the support given by the UK through the Darwin Initiative for conservation work, but also recognizes that this is largely tied to academic institutions. EIA also acknowledges the support given by DEFRA to INTERPOL’s Project Predator, and therefore calls upon the UK government to make funding available to support NGO activities in partnership with ICCWC members in the field of wildlife crime prevention, with a particular focus on research, capacity building and advocacy.

28. EIA urges the UK to take a lead role in advocating indicators of more effective enforcement at an international level, including at CITES . EIA remains concerned that the evaluation of enforcement effort in the international context is largely based on seizures. In the context of wildlife crime seizures and the arrests of low-level players in the trade chain such as couriers will not deter the serious organised criminal networks and will result in more animals being killed. Convictions, seizure of assets, evidence of investigations, intelligence-sharing and cooperation are what civil society expects to see as evidence of increased commitment and investment in wildlife crime enforcement.

Examples of indicators of more effective enforcement include:

· Proactive, covert, intelligence-led operations that build up a profile of wildlife criminals, and their local, national and international associations

· The right kind of intelligence being generated to enable the mapping of associations within such networks e.g. personal identifiable information, information derived from telephones and business transactions, vehicle records and travel histories

· Multi-agency and transnational sharing of intelligence through swift and secure means

· The development of national and transnational operations on the basis of intelligence

· The use of controlled deliveries as an evidence-gathering tool to effectively disrupt criminal networks

· Assets and proceeds of crime are recovered through invoking "proceeds of crime legislation against wildlife criminals

· Increase in detection and conviction rates

29. In light of the ongoing crisis facing many endangered species , EIA urges the UK to investigate the possibility of t ighte ning regulations regarding auctions of antique specimens of CITES Appendix I specie s, including how provenance is determined and whether export of all such items should be suspended.

UK position on future ivory trade

30. CITES remains the main mechanism through which illegal trade in ivory can be addressed. It does not predicate operating through other channels, but it is central to affecting change. The closure of ‘legal’ markets would remove the incentive of many of the largest, most profitable syndicates to poach and traffic ivory, arguably constituting the most decisive, unequivocal way of protecting elephant populations across the globe and this remains a long term goal.

31. EIA urges the UK and its EU partners to take a strong position to oppose further sales and trade in ivory. With 27 Member States the EU is a vital stakeholder in CITES Decisions.

32. In light of the ongoing crisis in global elephant populations, and the surge in the illegal ivory trade, EIA urges the UK and its EU partners to call for an immediate independent review of China’s domestic ivory trade control, regulation and implementation.

24 February 2012

[1] http://www.traffic.org/home/2011/12/29/2011-annus-horribilis-for-african-elephants-says-traffic.html

[2] CITES Secretariat Press Release, Geneva 7 November 2008

[3] November 2010, Friendship store, Guangzhou.

[3] Pr ices ranged from 1,240 RMB for 1 pair of chopsticks to 238,000 RMB for a simple, polished tusk; ID certificate stated the weight as 5380g. Based on the exchange rate 1 US$ = 6.43620 RMB, this puts the value of the tusk at US$ 6,839 per kilo.

[4] 6 年来牙雕价上 涨 将近 10 倍 牙雕收藏 进 入黄金 时 期 Source: http://www.ttcf.com/?action-viewnews-itemid-101633 “ 中国工 艺 美 术 大 师 李定宁从事牙雕 创 作数十年 , 从未 见 象牙价格下跌 , “ 这 5~6 年来价格上 涨 更 为 厉害 , 估 计 没有 10 倍也有 7~8 倍 ””-  Li Ding-ning, renowned arts and craft master who has been carving ivory for many decades is quoted as saying that in the past 5-6 years, the increase in the price for ivory is estimated to be 7-8 times, if not more than 10 times.

[4] “ 广州市宝象工 艺 品有限公司 总经 理李斌成透露 , 他一直不敢 动 的 库 存 货 , 一 涨 就近 10 倍。 ” – Li Bin-cheng, GM of Guangzhou Baoxiang Arts and Crafts Company said that he dared not to touch/use his stock now that it (ivory inventory) is nearly 10 times (of the original prices)”.

[5] Status of Elephant popuations, Levels of illegal Killing and the Trade in Ivory: A Report to the CITES Standing Committee SC61 Dock 44.2 (Rev 1) Annex 1

[6] http://www.traffi c .org/home/2011/12/29/2011-annus-horribilis-for-african-elephants-says-traffic.html

[7] Project Predator is an initiative of INTERPOL Environmental Crime Programme. It was launched at the 80 th INTERPOL General Assembly in November 2011, and is designed to support and enhance the governance and law enforcement capacity for the conservation of wild tigers. One of its key aims is to call upon countries to establish National contact units for dealing with wildlife crime. These were originally termed National Tiger Crime Task Forces, but have recently been broadened to become National Environmental Security Task Forces .

Prepared 5th March 2012