Illegal Wildlife Trade:  WWF-Pakistan, UN body join hands to combat

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By Muhammad Luqman

WWF-Pakistan and the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) have  entered into an agreement  to work together through innovative means to curb illegal wildlife trade in Pakistan.

The collaboration will contribute towards enhancing capacities of relevant law enforcement agencies in particular Pakistan Customs, to acquaint them about the key aspects of illegal wildlife trade to enhance vigilance against wildlife trafficking.

“Both organizations will also launch joint awareness campaigns to raise awareness on this issue,” Rab Nawaz, Senior Director Programmes, WWF-Pakistan said.

Illegal  wildlife trade is a persistent conservation challenge in Pakistan and other South Asian nations that can  be managed only through collaborative efforts.

The illegal wildlife trade is recognised as translational organised crime due to its lucrative nature and organised criminal networks involved in operating the supply chain of illegal wildlife trade.

According to WWF-Pakistan chief,  this partnership with UNODC would set a benchmark to address the wildlife trafficking issue in the country and further strengthen the efforts to support capacity building of our trade monitoring and regulating authorities. “Our previous work has helped unravel the scale of illegal wildlife trade across the country and species which are facing extinction as an outcome to it. We rely on the support of partners to highlight and take action against this organized crime,” Rab Nawaz said.

WWF-Pakistan has recently initiated a snow leopard conservation initiative focusing on adoption of zero-poaching frame-work to protect the species from poaching and illegal trade. Piloting of Spatial Monitoring and Reporting Tool (SMART), a technology based approach to support effective conservation of the species, is part of this programme.

According to a study of UNODC,  Wildlife crime destabilizes ecosystems and alongside habitat destruction, poses a grave threat to endangered wildlife. It does, however, take a greater stretch of the imagination to see how illegal wildlife trade is not solely an environmental injustice, but also undermines state authority, fuels violent conflict and terrorism, impacts national and global security and socioeconomic development. Estimated to generate US$20 billion annually, illegal wildlife trade is one of the largest global illegal activities.

Illegal wildlife trade is considered the third largest transnational crime after drugs and human trafficking, which undermines state authority and socio-economic development. Illegal wildlife trade has a devastating impact on biodiversity and ecosystems.

The World Wildlife Crime Report which was issued in 2016 represents the first global assessment of its kind. The report builds on information taken from World WISE: which-unveiled data platform, which contains over 164,000 seizures related to wildlife crime from 120 countries. One of the key observations that the database illustrates is the extreme diversity of this illegal activity: nearly 7,000 species are included in the seizures, yet no single one represents more than six per cent of the total, nor does a single country constitute the source of more than 15 per cent of the seized shipments.

“Benefiting with the expertise of WWF in educating frontline law enforcement officers will alert them on new risks and will enable them to identify and intercept wildlife that are being trafficked,” Cesar Guedes, UNODC Pakistan Chief  says.

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