Sir George backs campaign to curb illegal wildlife trade
2 Jul 2002
Sir George with an endangered snow leopard
Sir George with an endangered snow leopard
Click for a full size picture
"WWF and TRAFFIC launched a Wildlife Trade Campaign earlier this year to help tackle the global trade in illegal wildlife and wildlife products. The UK is a major centre for illegal wildlife and reports published as part of the campaign have highlighted both the dramatic impact that this trade has on endangered species and the inconsistency in the laws governing wildlife trade in the UK."
"In an effort to address these problems, the campaign is calling for:
the maximum sentence for illegal wildlife trade within the UK to be increased from two to five years, making offences under the Control of Trade in Endangered Species (Enforcement) Regulations 1997 (COTES) arrestable.
the Home Office to ask for sentencing guidelines to be issued to magistrates and judges on the appropriate penalties for wildlife crime to ensure that the penalties act as a deterrent."

"I very much support this campaign and was pleased to see so many MP's at this afternoon's reception."

"The snow leopard, for example, faces a number of threats. One threat is that herders are increasingly moving their flocks into snow leopard territory and exhausting the local grazing. This affects the snow leopard in two ways. First, domestic livestock compete with wild sheep and goats for scarce grazing. This pushes the wild prey away to other areas. Snow leopards are territorial and if their natural prey is replaced by domestic livestock they will kill that instead. This leads to the second consequence: herders will kill snow leopards in retaliation for killing their animals.
Another threat is large-scale poisoning of small mammal populations. This has not only affected snow leopards, but also the other predators which feed on them.
Recent reports indicate that the snow leopard has been killed for its bones. These are used in traditional Chinese medicine as substitutes for tiger bones. The plight of the tiger is well-known and its bones are banned from international trade. The trade in snow-leopard and clouded leopard bones has flourished while the spotlight of publicity has focused on the higher-profile tigers."

"Issues such as these bring together MP's from all parties, to seek to protect these endangered species."

Reports released by WWF and TRAFFIC­ during their campaign have shown that some endangered species are being driven towards extinction by the flourishing illegal wildlife trade. In addition, organised criminal gangs including the Russian Mafia and international drugs cartels are trading in highly profitable wildlife products by using existing smuggling routes for illegal commodities, such as small arms, drugs and humans.

“We think of ourselves as a nation of animal-lovers but this campaign has exposed double standards in our laws. A person can be arrested for selling a common frog which is a protected UK species, but can’t be arrested for selling a tiger or rhino – some of the world’s rarest species. The law needs to be strengthened, giving it stiffer penalties and making offences arrestable to help Police stop this scandalous trade.

“I was shocked at how much profit these criminals can make. Two Lear’s macaws are worth more than an ‘S class’ Mercedes and, ounce for ounce, shahtoosh – fine wool from an endangered Tibetan antelope – is worth more than gold.”

As part of the campaign WWF and TRAFFIC are encouraging members of the public to write to their MP expressing concern at the UK’s current wildlife trade laws. People can support the campaign by calling 01483 426 333 or visiting the WWF’s web site at

“Political support for the campaign is vital if we are to secure the change in law that the world’s wildlife so desperately needs. The UK is a major market for illegal wildlife and we need laws and regulations that act as a deterrent to these criminals. We are currently seen as a soft touch which has resulted in the UK becoming a global centre for this abhorrent trade,” said David Cowdrey, WWF Campaign Director, Wildlife Trade. “We are greatly encouraged by the level of political support for the campaign.”

Editor’s notes

(1) WWF is now known simply by its initials and the panda logo, in line with the whole international network. WWF, the global environment network, takes action to conserve endangered species, protect endangered spaces and address global threats, by seeking long term solutions.

(2) TRAFFIC, the wildlife trade monitoring network, works to ensure that trade in wild plants and animals is not a threat to the conservation of nature. It works in cooperation with the Secretariat of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild fauna and flora (CITES). TRAFFIC is a joint programme of WWF and IUCN – The World Conservation Union.

WWF’s Wildlife Trade Campaign, in partnership with TRAFFIC, is calling for the maximum sentence for illegal wildlife trade within the UK to be increased from two to five years, thereby making it an arrestable offence, which will act as a real deterrent to wildlife criminals. The campaign is lobbying the Home Office to ask for much needed guidelines to be issued to Magistrates and Judges on appropriate penalties for wildlife crime in the UK and to ensure the punishment fits the crime.

Our mission is to restore the balance between humans and nature to ensure that people’s use of wildlife is managed carefully, so that it doesn’t threaten either the wildlife or the people who rely on it.

For further information, please contact:
Anthony Field, t: 01483 412379, m: 07768 867274, e:
Maija Sirola, t: 01223 277427, e:
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