Continued funding has secured the future of the UK National Wildlife Crime Unit (NWCU) Environment Minister Richard Benyon confirmed today.
The NWCU is at the forefront of the UK’s fight against the growing illegal wildlife trade. Through effective intelligence-led enforcement, it targets key criminals engaged in serious and organised crime.
Announcing the funding, Richard Benyon said:
Wildlife crime is a very serious issue with organised gangs using the proceeds from illegally traded items like rhino horn to fuel other illegal activities. It’s right that a specialist unit supports the police in bringing these people to trial. The funding for another year will mean the unit can continue to bring criminals to justice and tackle the illegal wildlife trade both at home and abroad.
The Wildlife Crime Unit has been instrumental in the UK in combating the illegal trade in rhino horn, which now has a blackmarket value in Asia as high as gold.
During 2012 the NWCU:
- provided direct assistance in 175 cases;
- supported a further 74 cases and provided direct input into 13 ongoing enforcement operations involving wildlife and other criminality within the UK;
- collated and assessed 970 intelligence logs helped with a number of the 57 cases known to have been brought;
- supported a Europol project focussing on illegal trade in rhino horn; and
- supported Interpol projects on internet trade in ivory, on the illegal trade in birds and on illegal trade in endangered species and tigers particularly .
Defra funds £136,000 of the NWCU budget; it is additionally funded by the Home Office, who will match Defra funding with a further £136,000.
The NWCU is a strategic police unit, based in Livingston in Scotland, which collates intelligence and enforcement activity about wildlife crime across all UK police forces. Recently it has run major operations concerning badger-baiting, the smuggling of reptiles and amphibians, and the persecution of raptors.