News story

New cash to fight the illegal wildlife trade

Environment Secretary Michael Gove has announced £4.5 million of new funding through the Illegal Wildlife Trade Challenge Fund to tackle the criminals trafficking endangered species.

Environment Secretary, Michael Gove, speaking at the illegal wildlife trade conference launch event
Environment Secretary speaking at the Illegal Wildlife Trade conference launch event

Environment Secretary Michael Gove has announced £4.5 million for 14 new Illegal Wildlife Trade Challenge Fund projects to combat the trade in illegal wildlife at a special event to mark 100 days till the London Illegal Wildlife Trade conference.

The Challenge fund projects will act to prevent wildlife being trafficked or illegally traded through measures including demand reduction, strengthening enforcement and criminal justice, and providing alternative livelihoods.

The new funding comes as part of a host of measures announced by the Foreign Secretary in the build-up to the London Illegal Wildlife Trade conference in October.

Projects that will receive funding include supporting eco-guardians and community enforcement networks to protect elephants, a ‘payback’ scheme for the perpetrators of IWT and the development of strong room best practice guidelines for the storage of seized illegal ivory. There will also be funding provided to disrupt the poaching affecting iconic species such as Sumatran tigers and snow leopards.

Environment Secretary, Michael Gove said:

Environmental challenges do not respect borders, and require coordinated international action. Our Illegal Wildlife Trade Challenge Fund is driving change to combat this despicable criminality. The 14 projects range across 27 countries and showcase measures from criminal justice to education. These priorities reflect our commitment in the 25 Year Environment Plan to work with other nations to stamp out this vile trade. The fund, alongside our introduction of one of the world’s toughest bans on ivory sales, shows our global leadership in protecting wildlife in its natural environment.

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.

The criminals who run this trade do more than damage wildlife - they use networks of corrupt officials and agencies to undermine sustainable development and the rule of law, bringing misery to local communities. Money made from this trade is used by criminal networks.

This is why tackling the illegal wildlife trade is a priority for the UK government and why it’s so important that at this year’s conference in London we find new and effective ways of tackling this crime, by bringing global leaders together to tackle the strategic challenges of the trade.

Project highlights

Case study 1

ZSL Mongolia’s 2018 IWT Challenge Fund project will strengthen border law enforcement by bringing specialist training for border staff and detector dog units at key points; create a multi-agency taskforce on wildlife trade for better intelligence-sharing, and by helping communities living along the borders to keep out criminal groups through the creation of surveillance networks.

ZSL Director of Conservation, Matthew Hatchwell, said:

The illegal trade of wildlife products in Asia presents enormous challenges in preventing the large scale loss of species that can only be tackled by multiple partners working together, in particular to support the conservation efforts of national governments. ZSL is very grateful for the support of the UK government’s Illegal Wildlife Trade Challenge Fund to strengthen frontline law enforcement in Mongolia, home to highly endangered species such as the Saiga antelope, snow leopard and Bactrian camel.

Case study 2

Ivory, accrued by natural mortality or seizures of illegal stock, is held in government storerooms that often lack adequate security and management procedures, and are vulnerable to corruption and theft. A robust ivory management system will keep these products from returning to and perpetuating the illegal supply chain. In partnership with national government authorities across Africa, we will develop, trial and put into practice storeroom Guidelines and Standard Operating Procedures (SOP), embedding this into government policy to ensure regular use.

John Stephenson, CEO Stop Ivory said:

We are delighted to have the UK Government’s support for a crucial project to fight the illegal wildlife trade. By ensuring that African Governments have comprehensive stockpile storeroom security and procedures in place, this project will prevent illegal wildlife products from leaking back into the supply chain, which perpetuates the illegal trade and poaching of elephants. Through this funding, the UK Government continues to work with the African countries leading the Elephant Protection Initiative to secure a meaningful future for elephants across Africa - the initiative the Government helped launch at the London Conference on Illegal Wildlife Trade in 2014. The unprecedented crisis we face - with Africa’s natural heritage being destroyed and communities put at risk due to poaching by armed gangs - will only stop when ivory is securely put beyond economic use.

Case study 3

This innovative project will look at how sanctions against IWT can better reflect the injuries to society (For example on livelihoods, biodiversity, culture). It will compare international sanctions to illegal wildlife trade, and initiate international “best practices” standards. In Indonesia, it will work with experts and government officials to review sanctions, and provide expertise to quantify the costs of this illegal trade on society. The project aims to apply these to a first-of-a-kind civil liability suit to hold perpetrators of the illegal trade in wildlife financially responsible for environmental harm.

Dr Jacob Phelps, Lancaster University, said:

This new funding from the UK Government will help the Lancaster Environment Centre to tackle the real-world challenges of taking legal action against illegal wildlife trade. In collaboration with lawyers and conservationists across a dozen countries, we will explore new legal responses to wildlife trade–focused on Indonesia, but with global implications. When an oil spill devastates a coast line, we pursue the perpetrators not only with fines and jail sentences, but also with orders to restore the environment, issue apologies and compensate victims. In contrast, the perpetrators of large-scale, commercial illegal wildlife trade are rarely held accountable for the broad impacts they impose on the environment and society. In this project, we will explore new strategies to hold large-scale perpetrators legally responsible for the environmental harm they cause, including impacts on livelihoods, biodiversity and culture.

Published 3 July 2018