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National Wildlife Crime Unit Threatened with Extinction

Based in Scotland, the National Wildlife Crime Unit (NWCU) is a world leading police unit dedicated to supporting wildlife crime investigations, which has been absolutely critical in the fight against international wildlife trafficking and domestic wildlife crime. However, Government funding for the small but incredibly effective unit runs out in March 2016.

Decisions on further funding by the Home Office and DEFRA are yet to be made in the light of the Government’s recent spending review. So, once again the NWCU faces an uncertain future. There is no doubt that the NWCU more than repays the relatively meagre amount of government funding it needs. In May 2015 the Unit played a vital role in Operation Cobra 3, a collaborative enforcement operation between at least 37 countries which resulted in more than 247 seizures of illegal wildlife consignments and 139 arrests.

Here at home, the NWCU collates and analyses wildlife crime intelligence across the UK, and supports the work of local wildlife crime officers. More than 400 wildlife items in illegal trade have been seized in the UK since April 2015, in many cases following the provision of intelligence and warrants by the NWCU. Last year alone 70% of local investigations into poaching and crimes against badgers, bats, raptors and freshwater pearl mussels, among others, were directly supported by the unit.

If the unit is disbanded, a huge number of wildlife crime cases will never be successfully investigated or prosecuted, and it will prove far more difficult for the UK to meet its national and international commitments to tackle wildlife crime.

Members of Link’s Wildlife Trade Working Group are doing all we can to persuade Government ministers to commit to this vital police unit, and provide it with the security it needs to plan and implement its operations at least until the end of the current Government’s term.

Mark Jones

Chair of Link's Wildlife Crime and Trade Group

Programmes Manager, Born Free Foundation

The opinions expressed in this blog are the author’s and not necessarily those of the wider Link membership.


Take action to save the unit by contacting your MP