New Global Initiative to #EndWildlifeCrime by Addressing Gaps in International Law
On June 5th, World Environment Day, ADM Capital Foundation, John Scanlon AO, former Secretary General of CITES, Born Free Foundation, the Food and Land Use Coalition, the Global Environmental Institute and the International Conservation Caucus Foundation today announced a global initiative to address serious gaps in international law and end wildlife crime.
Transnational wildlife crime is a $200 billion-usd-a-year illegal industry but this figure pales in comparison to the costs to local communities, public and animal health and our environment.
And the economic, health and social impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic provide a stark reminder of the high risks associated with the under-regulated, poorly regulated and illegal trade in wildlife.
The objective of the initiative to #EndWildlifeCrime is to 1) create a new global agreement on wildlife crime and, 2) make changes to existing international wildlife trade laws to include public and animal health considerations in decision making.
Chaired by Scanlon, hosted by ADM Capital Foundation, the Initiative gathers an array of organisations and individuals in its Steering Group representing environmental, policy, business and public health interests. The initiative includes advisers on private sector engagement and building partnerships, as well as a technical support group that includes renowned international lawyers and criminologists.
How will the Initiative take action?
The Initiative will support the development and adoption of a wildlife crime protocol under the United Nations Convention against Transnational Organised Crime (UNTOC), and amendments to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), the global agreement that regulates international wildlife trade, that would incorporate public and animal health criteria into its decision making.
The reforms would bring new wildlife trade restrictions on public and animal health grounds, and ban on high-risk markets and consumption, alongside a cooperative global enforcement effort to end wildlife crime.
How does wildlife crime and trade endanger global health?
Scientific research indicates that the highly contagious coronavirus that causes COVID-19 was most likely transmitted to humans from its reservoir host, a horseshoe bat, via another intermediate host species, possibly a pangolin.
As COVID-19 cases climb into the millions, the global death toll creeps towards 400,000, and the health risks of wildlife trade and crime are better known, the time has clearly arrived for the international legal framework governing wildlife trade that dates to back to the 1970’s to be reformed, the Group said.
Don’t we already have laws on this?
The UN World Wildlife Crime Report found that wild species of animals and plants are bought and sold for meat, for traditional medicines, for furniture, as pets, and for other luxury or non-essential products, with the Report finding that 7,000 of the 36,000 species listed under CITES are in the illegal trade.
While CITES was established to ensure that the international trade in wild animals and plants does not threaten their survival, it does not apply to domestic trade. CITES requires Parties to penalise rather than criminalise breaches, and it only applies to less than 0.5% of the world’s eight million species.
CITES does not include animal or public health criteria in its decision making. Taking a One Health approach to the wildlife trade is needed if we are to minimise the risks of disease spilling over from wild animal populations to humans again.
The coalition urged organisations and individuals to show their support by signing onto the initiative at www.endwildlifecrime.org.