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Wildlife trafficking still rampant despite global efforts, UN report finds

Wildlife trafficking still rampant despite global efforts, UN report finds
14 May 2024 09:03

ISIDORA CIRIC (ABU DHABI)

Despite two decades of international and national efforts, wildlife trafficking continues to devastate thousands of species globally, with 13 million seizures recorded over a span of six years, a UN study revealed on Monday.

The World Wildlife Crime Report 2024 by the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) revealed that approximately 4,000 animal and plant species are currently impacted by wildlife trafficking, creating a distressing landscape of environmental and societal harm.

Between 2015 and 2021, enforcement agencies reported seizing 13 million items and over 16,000 tonnes of illegally traded wildlife products.

The most affected groups include corals (16%), crocodilians (9%), and elephants (6%), with individual species like rhinoceros (29%) and pangolins (28%) facing severe threats. In terms of plant species, cedars and other sapindales (47%), rosewoods (35%), and agarwood along with other myrtales (13%) are heavily trafficked, UNODC said.

The study added that certain species, such as rare orchids, succulents, reptiles, fish, birds, and mammals, receive little public attention despite their critical endangerment.

The illegal trade is not just limited to wildlife but also extends to products derived from them, impacting various sectors such as food, medicine, and luxury goods.

However, as the study cautioned, “actual wildlife trafficking levels are of course far greater than the recorded seizures”. Wildlife traffickers have shown remarkable adaptability, altering their strategies and routes to exploit legal discrepancies and enforcement gaps, the study warned, noting that this adaptability undermines the effectiveness of regulatory measures aimed at curtailing their activities.

While there have been some successes in reducing the trafficking of famous species like elephants and rhinoceroses, overall progress remains underwhelming.

“There are signs of progress in reducing the impacts of trafficking for some iconic species, elephants and rhinoceros, but UNODC’s assessment of available evidence gives no confidence that wildlife trafficking overall is being substantially reduced,” the study said.

The repercussions of wildlife trafficking extend beyond immediate conservation concerns.

It triggers ecosystem-level impacts by disrupting species interdependencies, which undermines natural functions and processes crucial for climate stability and mitigation of climate change impacts, UNODC added.

Furthermore, the socioeconomic impacts are profound, reducing the benefits derived from nature, threatening human security, health, and livelihoods, and corroding governance and the rule of law.

“This includes loss of employment and other income from wildlife-based industries and degradation of the material benefits that nature provides to people, such as food, medicines and energy, as well as non-material contributions to identity, culture and learning,” the study explained.

The study is released every four years, with the latest data available covering the years 2020-2021.

The illegal trade is not just limited to wildlife but also extends to products derived from them The repercussions of wildlife trafficking extend beyond immediate conservation concerns

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