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Wildlife Crime

The Wildlife Crime Working Group works to improve the conservation and protection of wild flora and fauna threatened by domestic wildlife crime and international trade, also seeking to address the associated welfare issues. The working group aims to ensure the effective enforcement of UK wildlife laws and the proper implementation of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), and relevant EU directives.

Chair: Pete Charleston, Bat Conservation Trust
Vice Chair: David Cowdrey, International Fund for Animal Welfare
Policy and Campaigns Manager: Zoe Davies, Link

Update from the Group

Domestic Wildlife Crime

In 2018, the National Police Chiefs Council (NPCC) launched England and Wales’s first Wildlife Crime Policing Strategy, running from 2018-2021. It was launched alongside a Rural Affairs Strategy at the NPCC Rural Affairs Summit, which a number of Group members attended. Produced in close consultation with many members of this group, the Wildlife Crime Policing Strategy contains much to be welcomed, including echoing our calls for improved recording of wildlife crime.

Shortly before the launch of this strategy, members met with Home Office Minister, Victoria Atkins, to advocate for better central recording of wildlife crime. The Minister noted that any changes to the way in which wildlife crime is recorded must have the full support of the police. Publication of this strategy demonstrates that there is clear consensus between the police and the NGO sector, therefore strengthening the case for Home Office to make the urgent improvements needed to protect our wildlife from criminals. The Group is now supporting the National Wildlife Crime Unit (NWCU) in their pitch to the National Crime Registrar for improved recording of wildlife crime.

To strengthen our calls for improvements to wildlife crime recording further, in November Wildlife and Countryside Link and Wales Environment Link published their second Annual Wildlife Crime Report – this time looking at crime in 2017.

Data on wildlife crime in England and Wales collected by members show an increase of 24% in reported terrestrial wildlife crime incidents, with a 9% rise overall. Shockingly, only nine individuals and businesses were prosecuted last year for the wildlife crimes on which Link members collect data. This is down two-thirds on the 22 people convicted in 2016. Mark Jones, Chair of Link’s Wildlife Crime Working Group, will launch the report at the National Wildlife Crime Enforcers’ Conference in December. The story was covered in the Telegraph and is the subject of a Link blog by the Group’s Vice-Chair Pete Charleston. You can read Link’s press release here.

While the figures themselves tell a grim story, the reason Link produces an Annual Wildlife Crime Report is to advocate to Government that it must centrally record wildlife crime and produce its own annual report – as is done by the Scottish Government. At present, data on wildlife crime, such as that collected by Link members, are piecemeal and difficult to collate. Recording wildlife crime centrally would allow Government and police forces across England and Wales to track trends and allocate resources much more efficiently.

International work

Many Group members played a prominent part in the landmark London International Wildlife Trade Conference in October 2018. The conference, organised jointly by the Home Office, Foreign Office and Defra, brought together 1,500 delegates from over 80 countries including numerous Heads of State and Ministers.

Heads of State signed a Declaration promising to increase action to tackle the illicit financial flows associated with wildlife trafficking and related corruption, and welcomed action to treat wildlife offences as predicate offences, including for money laundering crimes. However, the lack of tangible, clear, time-bound, measurable commitments in the Declaration leaves a feeling of an opportunity missed, and will make it hard to hold governments to account in spite of their fine words.

For further information, contact Zoe Davies, Link’s Policy and Campaigns Manager.

Last updated: 28 February 2019