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UNODC Releases World Wildlife Crime Report 2024

Context:

The UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) has published the third edition of the World Wildlife Crime Report 2024. This report offers a comprehensive analysis of the illegal wildlife trade, covering the period from 2015 to 2021.

Relevance:

GS III: Environment and Ecology

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. Key Highlights of the Report
  2. Factors Responsible for Wildlife Crime
  3. Measures to Effectively Reduce Wildlife Crime

Key Highlights of the Report

Most Affected by Illegal Wildlife Trade (2015-2021)

Animals:

  • Rhino and cedar were the most affected.
  • Rhino Horn: Comprised the largest portion of the illegal animal trade at 29%.
  • Pangolin Scales: Accounted for 28%.
  • Elephant Ivory: Made up 15%.

Other Illicitly Traded Animals:

  • Eels (5%)
  • Crocodilians (5%)
  • Parrots and Cockatoos (2%)
  • Carnivores, Turtles and Tortoises, Snakes, and Seahorses.
Major Illegally Traded Plants
  • Cedars and other Sapindales: Including mahogany, holy wood, and Guiacum made up 47%.
  • Rosewoods: Accounted for 35%.
  • Agarwood and other Myrtales: Comprised 13%.

Commodities Seized (2015-2016)

  • Coral Pieces: Constituted 16% of all seizures.
  • Live Specimens: Made up 15%.
  • Medicines Made of Animal Products: Represented 10%.
Processing and Trafficking Trends
  • Traditionally, bones were processed in destination countries (Far East) but may now be processed closer to the source (Africa, Latin America, Asia).
  • Easier to traffic when processed (e.g., boiling bones into paste).
  • Uncertainty if processed products are for local use, export, or both.
  • Lion and Jaguar Bones: Increasingly substituted for tiger bones in traditional Chinese medicine.
Tracking Progress on SDG Target 15.7
  • New Indicator Introduced (2024): To track progress in stopping illegal wildlife trafficking.
  • Rising Illegal Trade: The proportion of illegal wildlife trade compared to all wildlife trade has increased since 2017.
  • Impact of Covid-19 Pandemic: Wildlife seizures peaked at 1.4-1.9% of global trade (2020-2021), up from 0.5-1.1% in previous years.
  • SDG Target 15.7: Current trends suggest the world is not on track to meet the target by 2030.
United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC)
  • Established: 1997.
  • Renamed: United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime in 2002.

Functions:

  • Acts as the Office for Drug Control and Crime Prevention.
  • Combines the United Nations International Drug Control Program (UNDCP) and the Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice Division of the United Nations Office at Vienna.

Factors Responsible for Wildlife Crime

Involvement of Organized Crime
  • Organized Crime Groups: Engage in elephant and tiger poaching, illegal fishing, and logging.
  • Remote Operations: Utilize power relationships, corruption, illicit firearms, and money-laundering.
  • Specialized Roles: Involved in export, import, brokering, storage, breeding, and interfacing with processors throughout the trade chain.
Economic and Social Drivers
  • Economic Necessity: Many poor individuals partake in wildlife crime to make ends meet.
  • Crop and Livestock Protection: Desperation to protect agricultural resources from wildlife leads to poaching.
Market Dynamics
  • Adaptation to Legal Decline: Illegal traders invent new uses for products as legal markets decline.
  • Demand for Scarcity: Luxury items like rare animals and endangered species trophies become more valuable as they become scarcer, driving illegal market demand.
Corruption and Legal Challenges
  • Corruption: Undermines efforts to combat wildlife trafficking, from bribery at inspection points to high-level influence on legal decisions.
  • Legislative Gaps: Although laws exist to combat corruption with strong investigative powers, prosecution of wildlife trafficking organizers under such laws is rare.
Cultural Factors
  • Cultural Practices: In some regions, poaching is part of cultural identity. For instance, in the Central African Republic, elephant hunting symbolizes bravery and manhood and is a generational practice.

Impacts of Wildlife Crime and Trafficking

Biodiversity and Ecological Impacts
  • Biodiversity Degradation: Leads to population reductions and extinction threats, affecting species diversity and ecosystem functioning.
  • Ecological Imbalance: Overexploitation causes sex-ratio imbalances and slowed reproduction rates.
  • Disturbance of Species Interdependencies: Trafficking disrupts essential ecological functions such as the food chain and food web.
  • Invasive Species: Illegal trade can introduce non-native species, harming native ecosystems and natural resources.
Socio-Economic Impacts
  • Undermines Nature’s Benefits: Impacts food, medicine, energy, and cultural values.
  • Economic Losses: A World Bank study estimated global economic losses from illegal wildlife trade at USD 1–2 trillion per year.
  • Business Harm: Increases costs and losses for businesses in the legal wildlife trade and related services.
  • Unfair Competition: Reduces resource access, damages reputations, and incurs extra legality verification costs.
  • Disease Transmission Risks: Poses significant threats to humans, animals, and natural ecosystems.
Law and Order
  • Threats to Law Enforcement: Police, customs officials, and wildlife rangers face harassment, violence, and loss of life from poachers.
  • Undermines Rule of Law: Weakens natural resource management and criminal justice responses.
  • Corruption and Money Laundering: Compromises legislation and political stability, with limited financial investigations.
  • Government Revenue Losses: Evades legal harvest fees, taxes, and tourism income, causing significant revenue losses in source countries.
  • Increased Enforcement Costs: Wildlife crimes drive up government spending on conservation, law enforcement, and criminal justice globally.

Measures to Effectively Reduce Wildlife Crime

Legal Measures
  • Demand Reduction: Implement laws that make it illegal to possess or trade goods derived from illegally obtained wildlife.
    • Example: Banning ivory products to discourage elephant poaching.
  • Stricter Law Enforcement: Ensure rigorous enforcement of existing laws like the Environmental Protection Act (1986) in India.
  • Effective Penalties: Implement strong penalties for violations of wildlife protection laws to deter offenders.
Resource Allocation
  • Improved Resource Management: Allocate and manage funds more effectively to directly support wildlife protection agencies such as park rangers and anti-poaching units.
  • Community Involvement: Engage local communities in conservation efforts and provide financial incentives to encourage their participation in preventing wildlife crime.
Public Awareness and Education
  • Awareness Campaigns: Raise public awareness about the consequences of wildlife trafficking through educational campaigns.
  • Education on Wildlife Value: Educate citizens about the ecological and economic value of wildlife and the detrimental effects of consuming illegal wildlife products.
  • Encouraging Reporting: Foster a sense of responsibility among individuals to report suspicious activities to authorities.

-Source: Down To Earth


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