Wildlife crime and the EU

Wildlife crime poses a threat to biodiversity and is a security issue in some source countries. The EU is both a destination and a transit region for illegally-traded wildlife products. The European Parliament’s Committee on the Environment, Public Health and Food Safety commissioned a study on wildlife crime, which was carried out by Ecologic and IEEP. The study gives an overview of the state of wildlife crime in Europe, based on a review of 25 Member States (not including Cyprus, Luxembourg and Malta). Furthermore, five in-depth case studies on Germany, the Netherlands, Poland, Spain and the UK present an analysis of wildlife crime in these EU Member States and their efforts to combat it.

There are several important routes and species linked to the illegal trade of wildlife within or through the EU. Parts of large mammals (e.g. elephants, rhinos and big cats) are transported from Africa and South America to major trade hubs and for further transit to Asia; marine species, reptiles and parrots are smuggled for the European pet trade; endangered birds are traded from South Eastern Europe to Southern Europe; and Russian and Asian wildlife exports pass along Eastern European land routes. The study finds that the number of wildlife crime-related seizures has been relatively constant in recent years, with over 70% of seizures from 2007-2014 taking place in the UK, Germany and the Netherlands. Around half of seizures occur at airports, but mailing centres and the internet are also expected to become increasingly important.

The study finds the EU’s regulatory framework to combat wildlife to be fit for purpose, and concludes that all Member States have legal frameworks in place. However, in some cases there is insufficient and uneven enforcement, sanctions vary and are often relatively minor, and some police, prosecutors and judicial authorities lack the resources and technical skills needed. Only a minority of Member States have a national action plan on wildlife crime, as recommended by the European Commission in Recommendation 2007/425/EC.

In view of these enforcement deficits, the study concludes that an EU Action Plan on wildlife crime is a promising initiative which would provide a more comprehensive approach to enforcement, prevention and global cooperation. The study concludes that any harmonisation of sanctions for wildlife crime would however be better addressed in the broader context of the Environmental Crime Directive.

The full study can be accessed on the European Parliament website, along with a set of in-depth case studies on Germany, the Netherlands, Poland, Spain and the UK.