In an epic attempt to stem the tide on global wildlife crime the Wildlife Justice Commission (WJC) has been instituted in The Hague, justice capital of the world, once more reinforcing the reputation of the Dutch for defending rights, human or animal. And just in the nick of time too.
Wildlife crime is now the fourth largest illegal trade in the world after drugs, arms and people trafficking with an estimated worth of $20 billion a year. Reducing this illegal wildlife trade is not only essential to conservation, it is crucial in building global peace and security and stabilizing regions riddled by conflict.
Although sources are hush about the exact cost involved in setting up the commission the investment by the World Wildlife Fund (WWF), its partners and the Postcode Lottery comes at a most critical time and will be well worth it when wildlife poaching ceases. Hopefully our gratitude is retribution enough.
Beware citizens’ criminal justice trend
Sam Muller, the director of the Wildlife Justice Commission based in The Hague says: “The need for action has never been greater and the time for action is now.”
The launch of this commission fits into a wider trend, according to Muller: ‘the emergence of citizens’ criminal justice.
“This trend is, on the whole, good news. It seems to be only just gathering steam. If it continues, States and international organizations will find inaction more difficult in the face of citizens’ increased capacity to investigate in a highly professional manner and to have such evidence convincingly validated. Public opinion can then do the rest.”
The WJC tweeted: “What we have is the power of public opinion”.
WJC director Muller states that the justice systems in many parts of the world are unable – and too often unwilling – to deal with transnational wildlife crime. So, the old adage ‘when you want something done properly, you have to do it yourself’ is rather applicable here, not so Dutchies.
And FYI, wildlife crime is associated with corruption, money laundering and terrorism. Poaching is in the hands of well-organized international criminal syndicates that earn big money with this trade.
Technology: the rising hero of biodiversity
The illegal trade of wildlife is growing exponentially causing irreversible damage to biodiversity despite current conservation efforts.
For those who are not aware of the gravity of what planet Earth’s wildlife is worth – its presence in the ecosystem is the embodiment of a healthy, functioning planet. A planet is an organic entity which brings forth life in variety when performing at its optimal level. When all the systems are malfunctioning, mass extinction events occur. Okay (catching my breath). Don’t shoot the messenger.
Oh well, no matter, right, you can still catch a glimpse of all this threatened natural beauty on the Discovery channel and Twitter, and stuff. Who needs the real thing?
Actually technology might just save the day. Cutting-edge techniques (just another forte of the Dutch) including DNA profiling, GPS tracking of shipments and the establishment of a high-level panel to adjudicate on evidence will enable the Wildlife Justice Commission to take those accused of corruption and smuggling to task.
Muller states that the WJC “does what looks a lot like law enforcement”.
Tasked with controlling wildlife crime
The commission was established in March this year by legal, criminal justice and conservation experts around the world. The team is currently busy gathering evidence involving criminal networks that traffic ivory and rhino horn from Africa and Asia.
The WJC has been set up by the WWF which has been fighting against poaching and illegal wildlife trade for many years alongside local partners. It is capable of mobilizing millions of people globally as well as influential individuals.
Catherine Bearder, member of the ALDE group in the European Parliament and a Liberal Democrat MEP says: “Momentum is now building as governments around the world wake up to the threat wildlife crime poses to global security.”
The consensus among wildlife interest groups is that the fight against wildlife trade is fueled by more than a simple interest in environmental protection. Wildlife trade also represents a serious threat to our security. Why, I hear you asking again. Because a large amount of international and domestic illegal commerce of wild fauna products including fish and wood is managed by sophisticated criminal networks.