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November 24, 2016

European Parliament supports EU crackdown on wildlife trafficking

Humane Society International/Europe

  • The report urges EU Member States to set appropriate penalties for offences relating to wildlife crime. Alain Pons/Photo Alto

The European Parliament has adopted a robust report on the EU Action Plan against Wildlife Trafficking, a move warmly welcomed by Humane Society International. This report provides the MEPs’ response to the Action Plan that was adopted by the European Commission in February 2016 to strengthen the EU’s role in the global fight against the illegal wildlife trade. Given that the EU is both a significant destination market and transit route for illegal wildlife trade products, decisive and immediate EU action is needed to help end the poaching and trafficking of protected species.

HSI/Europe Executive Director Joanna Swabe, issued the following statement:

“It is heartening that there has been so much political consensus on the need to effectively combat wildlife trafficking. The European Parliament’s report recommends a number of ways in which the EU Action Plan against Wildlife Trafficking can be further strengthened. In particular, we applaud the Parliament’s call for the introduction of supplementary legislative provisions to prohibit the making available and placing on the market, transport, acquisition and possession of wildlife that has been illegally ‘harvested’ or traded in third countries. At present, species not listed on the international wildlife trade treaty (CITES) that have been taken in violation of national legislation elsewhere in the world can still be traded with impunity in the EU. Closing this legislative gap would give much-needed protection, especially for species exploited for the exotic pet trade.”

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MEPs call for a wide range of measures to tackle wildlife crime in this report, including the implementation of a comprehensive and immediate EU ban on the trade, export or re-export of ivory and rhino horn, the establishment of a dedicated Wildlife Trafficking Coordinator’s Office and the greater use of bilateral and multilateral agreements to combat wildlife trafficking at an international level. Further, the report also urges EU Member States to set appropriate penalties for offences relating to wildlife crime and recommends the European Commission work towards establishing common rules for defining criminal offences and sanctions relating to wildlife trafficking. 


  • The EU ranks among the top three consumers of wildlife products across the globe. It is a significant destination market as well as transit route for illegal wildlife products, and also a source of illegal wildlife products from species protected under EU legislation.
  • Wildlife trafficking ranks globally as the fourth largest type of international crime in terms of annual turnover.
  • In 2016, the European Commission adopted its Communication on an EU Action Plan against Wildlife Trafficking, which seeks to strengthen the EU’s role in the global fight against the illegal wildlife trade. It includes a set of priorities concerning prevention, enforcement and cooperation.
  • The African elephant is facing an unprecedented poaching and trafficking threat. Between 2010 and 2012, poachers illegally killed an estimated 100,000 elephants to meet the global demand for ivory. Forest elephants in Central Africa have experienced a 65 percent reduction in their populations, with imminent extirpation if the poaching rate persists. In September 2016, the Great Elephant Census, the first pan-African aerial survey of savannah elephants in decades, revealed a disturbing 30 percent decline of the species since 2007.  
  • With only about 29,000 rhinos of five species remaining in the wild, and poaching of these iconic animals for their horns continuing to escalate, rhinos are facing a crisis. Over the past decade, poachers killed more than 6,000 rhinos across Africa, with more than 1,300 poached in 2015 alone. And the problem is spreading, evidenced by the emergence of new poaching “hotspots” where poachers did not previously target rhinos.

Media Contact: Wendy Higgins, +44(0)7989 972 423, whiggins@hsi.org

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