Commission launches action plan to crack down on wildlife trafficking

Commission launches action plan to crack down on wildlife trafficking

The European Commission has adopted an EU Action Plan to tackle wildlife trafficking within the EU and to strengthen the EU's role in the global fight against these illegal activities. Last week (26.2) the European Commission announced an EU Action Plan to tackle wildlife trafficking within the EU and to strengthen the EU's role in the global fight against these illegal activities. The Action Plan aims at cracking down on what has become one of the most profitable criminal activities worldwide.

Recent years have seen a dramatic surge in wildlife trafficking. An estimated 8 to 20 billion euro passes annually through the hands of organised criminal groups, ranking alongside the trafficking of drugs, people and arms.

Federica Mogherini, Vice president of the European Commission and High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, said: "Wildlife trafficking and poaching are drivers of insecurity and instability in several countries and regions. They can provide resources to armed groups and encourage corruption."

The EU is a destination, source and transit region for trafficking in endangered species, which involves live and dead specimens of wild fauna and flora, or parts of products made from them.

More than 20 000 elephants and 1200 rhinoceroses were killed in 2014 and, after years of recovery, their populations are once more in decline. As the biggest donor internationally, the EU is supporting conservation efforts in Africa with 700 million EUR for the period 2014-2020. 

The Action Plan forms part of the wider EU Action Plan to strengthen the fight against terrorist financing presented by the Commission in February 2016.

It is also an important contribution to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals' dedicated target (Goal 15) to "take urgent action to end poaching and trafficking of protected species of flora and fauna, and address both demand and supply of illegal wildlife products".

In 2014 a consultation on the EU approach against wildlife trafficking showed strong support for the development of an EU Action Plan. The European Parliament adopted a comprehensive resolution in January 2014 calling for an EU Action Plan against wildlife crime and trafficking.

The Action Plan will be presented to the EU Member States for endorsement in the coming weeks.

The Brussels Times


Wildlife trade from, into and within the EU is regulated through a set of Wildlife Trade Regulations that implement the provisions of the Convention on Trade in Endangered Species (CITES).

The EU Nature Directives prohibit the sale and transport of a number of strictly protected wild species in the EU. Wildlife trafficking is also included in the Directive on the Protection of the Environment through Criminal Law which requires Member States to consider it a criminal offence.


From tortoises to orchids - seized wildlife products in the EU

In a fact sheet, the European Commission lists the most commonly seized wildlife products in the EU:

Live reptiles, especially tortoises, but also lizards, chameleons, snakes, iguanas and geckos. Over 6000 live reptiles were seized at the EU borders during the period 2011-2014;

Reptile bodies, parts and derivatives, with a total of over 9600 individual items seized for the period 2011-2014. The majority of them were reptile skin and leather products from snakes, crocodiles and lizards;

Mammal bodies, parts and derivatives (skins in particular), including bears, wolves, big cats and bush meat;

Live birds and eggs, with a total of over 500 specimens seized during the period 2011-2014, mostly parrots smuggled from Africa or Latin America to Europe via transit countries, which attract very high prices on the black market, as well as birds of prey;

Medicinal products derived from animals (seahorses, musk dear, pangolins) and plants (such as costus root, American ginseng, orchids, agarwood, African cherry, hoodia and aloe)

Live plants, primarily involving orchids, cacti, euphorbias and cycads, with around 78,000 seized during the period 2011-2014;

Other commodities frequently traded illegally into the EU include corals, caviar, timber products, dead birds and invertebrates (bodies, parts and derivatives).


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