Environmental Crime, which includes the illegal wildlife trade and illegal logging, is the fifth most lucrative serious organised crime and is estimated to be worth up to £17billion a year.
Now, the first of its kind multi-zoos and aquariums pact, designed to help bring a stop to the illegal wildlife trade, has been announced by the British and Irish Association of Zoos and Aquariums (BIAZA) and is backed by the UK Government and wildlife crime agencies.
BIAZA is the professional zoo association consisting of 117 members in the UK and Ireland. Association CEO, Dr Kirsten Pullen, said:
Our members are uniquely placed to have a major impact in helping to put an end to this abhorrent business. Many are already carrying out their own initiatives that support the reporting of illegal wildlife trade activities, assisting officials in helping to identify trafficked species as well as raising awareness amongst more than 30 million visitors annually. As a conservation wildlife charity we support our members in their work to protect the natural world through conservation programmes, scientific research and educating the public on actions they can take to help make a difference. This new pact will facilitate a more unified approach and enable us to have greater impact in putting an end to the illegal wildlife trade.
The BIAZA zoos and aquariums pact is being launched ahead of the forthcoming Illegal Wildlife Trade Conference, being hosted by the UK Government in London on 11 – 12 October 2018.Experts believe the illegal trade crisis can be reduced with widespread public support. Zoos and authorities across the UK and Ireland have joined forces to tackle the problem as part of a campaign to arm the public with the information and resources needed to report instances of the illegal wildlife trade.Conservationists leading the campaign at Chester Zoo have created an online reporting form allowing members of the public to report instances of the illegal wildlife trade directly to the UK Wildlife Crime Unit and TRAFFIC, the wildlife trade monitoring network.
Public reports are helping wildlife crime authorities to prioritise response action, improve their understanding of illegal trade and highlight the areas in need of increased enforcement resources.British tourists visiting South East Asia are also being encourage to download a Wildlife Witness app, available for free on smartphones from the app store. Supported by zoos worldwide, the app allows individuals to easily to report wildlife trade by taking a photo, when safe to do so, pinning the exact location of an incident and sending the details to TRAFFIC.The public are also being urged to be careful to consider animal welfare when sharing videos and images on social media.
Dr Mark Pilgrim, Chief Executive Officer at Chester Zoo, a member of BIAZA, said:
The illegal wildlife trade is one of the greatest threats to the future of wildlife today but together we can make great strides towards wiping it out. We believe it’s really important that people understand the issues around illegal wildlife trade so they can help take important actions to help prevent it.
If you witness any illegal wildlife trade activity, whether in the UK or when you’re travelling abroad, you can help us stamp it out by reporting it to the relevant authorities as soon as it is safe to do so. Action is critical. Together, we can all help to prevent extinction.
Environment Minister Thérèse Coffey said:
The British and Irish Association of Zoos and Aquariums and their many member organisations including Chester Zoo are carrying out important work to support wildlife around the globe by helping to stamp out this vile trade. Zoos and aquariums play an important role in helping species to survive through their education and conservation programmes.Building on the success of past summits to protect critically endangered species, the London conference marks a collective intent to work together, share learnings and forge new partnerships. Together, we can disrupt the criminality that is destroying flora and fauna on an unprecedented scale.
The illegal wildlife trade is the sale or exchange of wild animal and plant resources that are protected by international trade law.