New Delhi: Organised wildlife syndicates across the world including those in India continue to thrive in the absence of adequate funding for security agencies that fight illegal trade, says head of a top global policing body.
“India with its diversity is a target for traffickers who are sourcing tiger products, ivory, parrots and many reptile species to cater to strong illegal markets globally,” David Higgins, manager, Interpol’s Environmental Crime Programme said.
Traffickers, he says, have now even established an Internet presence with trade being conducted for animals and their parts online.
“We have insufficient funding to conduct work in the illegal trade of wildlife over the internet. In order for us to be institutionalised and sustainable we believe governments need to provide financial support,” says Higgins.
According to Wildlife Protection Society of India, 32 tigers were recorded to have been illegally killed by poachers in 2009. Of these 12 were poaching cases and 20 were seizures of tiger parts.
“In all we have records of 85 dead tigers in 2009 - 32 tigers were poached or seized, 35 tigers were found dead, 14 were reported to have died from in-fighting, two man-eaters were shot by the forest department and two tigers died in accidents. So far, six tigers have died in January 2010,” says Belinda Wright, Executive Director, WPSI.
Higgins acknowledges that Interpol is aware of the issues associated with the illegal trade in wildlife over the Internet and is in touch with private sector and other enforcement communities to consider ways to combat the menace.
“We see this as an issue that needs to be addressed from an international prospective with the fully support of the relevant private sector companies, governments and non-governmental organisations,” says Higgins.
Interpol’s Environmental Crime Programme is funded on a short term basis by governments and NGOs.
“We are working towards a permanent presence in the future but this requires governmental support. We requires support in all areas of criminality that we combat, this includes wildlife, pollution, fisheries and natural resource crime,” says Higgins.
According to him the Interpol’s Wildlife Crime Officer is funded by International Fund for Animal Welfare and Bosack and Kruger Foundation, Pollution Crime Officer is funded by Netherlands and its Administrative Officer is funded by Environment Canada and the UK Environment Agency.
An international ‘Internet illegal wildlife trade´ meeting held in Vancouver, Canada early 2009 specifically addressed the illegal trade in wildlife over the Internet.
Higgins however is hesitant about finalising a fixed budget required by the global monitoring agency. “If you want to simply monitor the illegal trade then the cost of one officer would probably suffice, but if you want to combat it then appropriate staffing levels need to be assigned,” he says.