Treat illegal wildlife trade as serious crime: CITES

January 25, 2013
A man shouts during a protest on January 22, 2012 in Nairobi during a protest to put pressure on the government to declare the ongoing rampant poaching of particulalrly rhino and elephant, a national disaster. Illegal trade in wildlife products like ivory and rhino horn must be treated as a serious crime, the head of UN wildlife trade regulator CITES said Thursday.

Illegal trade in wildlife products like ivory and rhino horn must be treated as a serious crime in order to end the devastating poaching of protected species, the head of UN wildlife trade regulator CITES said Thursday.

"This is serious crime, and you need serious resources and serious penalties" to address it, CITES Secretary General John Scanlon told reporters in Geneva.

Speaking ahead of a meeting of CITES's 177 member states in Bangkok in early March, Scanlon said finding better ways to crack down on the illegal trade of ivory and rhino horn were among the top issues on the agenda.

Pointing out that is estimated to rake in about $20 billion a year, he insisted that such crimes needed to be treated in the same manner as for instance the international illegal drug trade.

Indian forest officials stand near a one horned horn Rhinoceros, which was killed and de-horned by the poachers in India on September 27, 2012. Illegal trade in wildlife products like ivory and rhino horn must be treated as a serious crime in order to end the devastating poaching of protected species, the head of UN wildlife trade regulator CITES said Thursday.

A report last month listed the illicit sale of wildlife products as the fourth-largest illegal after narcotics, counterfeiting and .

The sharp increase in poaching of protected species like and in recent years appears to be fuelled by organised criminals eager to reap massive profits at very low risk, and is also believed to be helping to fund insurgencies in Africa, Scanlon said.

"These trends with ivory and rhino horn are going up (so much) that we will start wiping out local populations very soon," he warned.

Rhino horn can sell for as much as $80,000 a kilo, and have killed some 2,000 rhinos in the past two years—a huge number considering only about 25,000 rhinos remain, he said.

Elephant poaching in Africa has also increased sharply, with devastating incidents like the family of 11 elephants killed in a Kenyan park earlier this month, and the up to 450 elephants slaughtered last February in Cameroon by poacher gangs, likely from Chad and Sudan.

"It would appear that some individuals are stockpiling. You could say they are banking on extinction (and) assuming that as these species become rarer, the rhino horn and the ivory will become more valuable," Scanlon said.

To halt the trade, authorities need to work harder to trace the illegal products to the people creating the demand, he said.

"Until we find out who ordered (the products), prosecute them, convict them and impose a serious penalty, we're not going to be able to stop this."

Explore further: Smuggling wildlife: From eggs in a bra to geckos in underwear

Related Stories

South Africa rhino poaching hits record: WWF

November 3, 2011

Rhino poaching in South Africa has hit a new record high, with 341 of the animals lost to poachers so far this year as black-market demand for rhino horn soars, wildlife group WWF said Thursday.

Asia fuels record elephant, rhino killings: WWF

July 23, 2012

Releasing a report rating countries' efforts at stopping the trade in endangered species, WWF said elephant poaching was at crisis levels in central Africa while the survival of rhinos was under grave threat in South Africa.

Recommended for you

Ancient walnut forests linked to languages, trade routes

September 4, 2015

If Persian walnut trees could talk, they might tell of the numerous traders who moved along the Silk Roads' thousands of miles over thousands of years, carrying among their valuable merchandise the seeds that would turn into ...

Huddling rats behave as a 'super-organism'

September 3, 2015

Rodents huddle together when it is cold, they separate when it is warm, and at moderate temperatures they cycle between the warm center and the cold edges of the group. In a new study published in PLOS Computational Biology, ...

Fighting explosives pollution with plants

September 3, 2015

Biologists at the University of York have taken an important step in making it possible to clean millions of hectares of land contaminated by explosives.

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.