The recent United Nations Congress on Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice held in Doha, Qatar, focused on the gravity of crimes against wildlife and forests, a crime which renders billions for those who are driving countless species to extinction. The conclusion of the session was more needs to be done.
To understand the scale of the question, the figure of seventeen billion USD was quoted for the trade in illegal products in the wood sector, and only in the Pacific and South-East Asia. In terms of lives, around twenty thousand African elephants were murdered in the year 2013 along with over one thousand rhinoceros.
Sam Kutesa, General Assembly President stated at the Thirteenth United Nations Congress on Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice held recently in Doha, Qatar, that "wildlife and forest crime...has the potential, not only to devastate the environment but also to undermine the social, political and economic well-being of societies, while generating billions of dollars for criminal gangs and sustaining their illicit activities".
John Scanlon, Secretary-General of CITES, Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of wild flora and fauna, told the gathering that wildlife crime should be "treated as a serious crime". And "more clearly needs to be done" simply "because the scale and nature of illegal wildlife trade have changed over recent years". He spoke about "industrial scale poaching" by armed militia and even sometimes rogue elements within the armed forces of some countries.
Very often even when the perpetrators are caught, the penalty is a risible fine or a short period of imprisonment. For Yuri Fedotov, Executive Director of the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), it is "far too commonplace" to find inadequate legal frameworks: "Even when criminal traffickers are successfully prosecuted, the sentences imposed are often inadequate - small fines, a few months' imprisonment or conditional sentencing".
The International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) places 3,079 animal species and 2,655 plant species on the endangered list (2012), up from 1,102 animal species and 1,197 species in 1998. Critically endangered, according to the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) are the Amur Leopard, the Black Rhinoceros, the Cross River Gorilla, the Hawksbill Turtle, the Javan Rhinoceros, the Leatherback Turtle, the Mountain Gorilla, the Pangolin, the Saola, the South China Tiger, the Sumatran Elephant, the Sumatran Orangutan, the Sumatran Rhinoceros, the Sumatran Tiger, the Vaquita, the Western Lowland Gorilla and the Yangtze Finless Porpoise.
*Timothy Bancroft-Hinchey has worked as a correspondent, journalist, deputy editor, editor, chief editor, director, project manager, executive director, partner and owner of printed and online daily, weekly, monthly and yearly publications, TV stations and media groups printed, aired and distributed in Angola, Brazil, Cape Verde, East Timor, Guinea-Bissau, Portugal, Mozambique and São Tomé and Principe Isles; the Russian Foreign Ministry publication Dialog and the Cuban Foreign Ministry Official Publications. He has spent the last two decades in humanitarian projects, connecting communities, working to document and catalog disappearing languages, cultures, traditions, working to network with the LGBT communities helping to set up shelters for abused or frightened victims and as Media Partner with UN Women, working to foster the UN Women project to fight against gender violence and to strive for an end to sexism, racism and homophobia. He is also a Media Partner of Humane Society International, fighting for animal rights.