United For Wildlife and UK Chamber continue fight to end illegal wildlife trade

Valued at up to $20 billion per year, the illegal trade of wildlife is the world's fourth most lucrative crime. The transport industry has stepped in to help end it.

united for wildlife taskforce

The UK Chamber was among attendees at this week's meeting of the United For Wildlife Transport Taskforce at Lancaster House, continuing the group's work in ending the illicit trade of wildlife products. 

The illegal trade is valued between $5-20 billion per year, making it the fourth most lucrative global crime after drugs, human trafficking and arms. Moreover, the trade fuels instability and criminality in demand and supply countries.

United For Wildlife, of which the Duke of Cambridge is president, last year formed its Transport Taskforce, which engages the transport industry to save protected species from illegal trade. It is chaired by former foreign secretary Lord William Hague.

The transport group aims to identify practical and achievable actions that can be undertaken by industry to prevent the carriage of wildlife products. 

In March 2016, the UK Chamber and certain of its member companies became early signatories to the Buckingham Palace Declaration, which forms an action plan to strengthen defences against trafficking. Forty transport companies from around the world have since signed the agreement. 

A big focus of the United For Wildlife's work is focused on the illegal trade of ivory. The trade was banned in 1989 in response to concerns over the conservation of elephant populations due to high levels of poaching. Initially, this led to a decline in elephant poaching in most parts of Africa and many elephant populations began to increase.

However, the number of elephants being poached for their ivory began to increase again from 2006, with an even sharper rise in levels of poaching from 2008 to 2011. Although poaching rates have plateaued since 2011, United For Wildlife says they remain unacceptably high and unsustainable.

Deterring and preventing the illegal transport of animal and plant products is one of the top priorities of the UK Chamber's recently launched Environmental Resolution. 

The Resolution is one of the tools the UK Chamber is employing in its work to gain support from shipping companies to take united For Wildlife's mission forward. 

The Chamber is asking its member companies to sign up to its Environmental Resolution and demonstrate their commitment to responsible, sustainable operations and end the carriage of these illegal products onboard ships.

"This is a cruel and hugely damaging trade that all those involved in transportation should strive to wipe out," says David Balston, the UK Chamber's director of policy, who attended this week's Taskforce meeting. 

"As stated in the Chamber's Environmental Resolution, we should have zero tolerance towards this horrid exploitation," he says.

The United For Wildlife Transport Taskforce has identified two critical needs that will need to be met in order to tackle the illicit trade of wildlife:

  • To develp a coherent, effective mechanism for shipping companies and airlines to receive timely alerts about the transport of suspected illegal wildlife and their products, comprising the modes transport, key routes and high-risk ports believed to be in use.
  • To enhance industry data systems, including due diligence and risk assessment, to allow the transport industry and enforcement agencies to screen data and cargo, which will help identify potential shipments of these illegal products.

The transport taskforce has been working to develop and pilot an intelligence clearinghouse system - in other words, an "investigative" database - that will consolidate information from sources like NGOs and pass it on to transport providers.  It is hoped this will help industry detect high-risk cargoes and improve companies' risk management and due diligence processes in relation to the carriage of illegal wildlife shipments.

Development of the clearinghouse system has been completed and it is now being piloted by Declaration signatory companies. 

  • To find out more about the Environmental Resolution or how you can participate in our mission, email David Balston.