Environmental crime is vastly expanding and increasingly endangering not only wildlife populations but entire ecosystems, sustainable livelihoods and revenue streams to governments. The value of environmental crime is 26% larger than previous estimates, at $91-258 billion today compared to $70-213 billion in 2014, according to a report published by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and INTERPOL on 4 June 2016. The report reveals that this new area of criminality has diversified and skyrocketed to become the world’s fourth largest crime sector in a few decades, after drug trafficking, counterfeit crimes and human trafficking, growing at 2-3 times the pace of the global economy. The Rise of Environmental Crime
finds that weak laws and poorly funded security forces are enabling international criminal networks and armed rebels to profit from a trade that fuels conflicts, devastates ecosystems, is threatening species with extinction and has far-reaching impacts and threats to human security andsustainable development.
Estimates of the illegal trade in wildlife are generally around $7–23 billion annually. Illegal harvest and trade includes a range of species and iconic ones like gorilla, orangutan, elephant, tigers and rhinos, Tibetan antelope and pangolin to coral, birds, reptiles and sturgeon for caviar. Rangers
Worldwide, over 1 000 rangers have lost their lives to poachers in the past 10 years.Elephant
A March 2013 inter-agency report by UNEP, CITES, IUCN and TRAFFIC, titled Elephants in the Dust
, states that elephant are now at dire risk because of the dramatic rise in poaching for their ivory. Increasing poaching levels, as well as loss of habitat, are threatening the survival of African elephant populations. In March 2016, CITES stated
that more African elephant are being killed for ivory than are being born, owing to the high levels of poaching. Africa’s elephant population has declined by an estimated 111 000 in the past decade primarily due to poaching, according to the IUCN’s African Elephant Status Report
, released on 25 September 2016.
The Javan, Sumatran and black rhino are considered critically endangered and the Indian rhino vulnerable by the IUCN's Red List of Threatened Species. The Javan rhino was declared extinct in Vietnam in 2011 and only an estimated 60 are left in the wild, in Indonesia, and none in captivity, while the Sumatran rhino was declared extinct in Malaysia and fewer than 100 of the animals remain on the island of Sumatra in Indonesia. In Africa the number of black rhino in the wild is estimated at 5 000 individuals and that of white rhino at 20 000. The western black rhino was declared extinct in 2011 and only three northern white rhino remain.
According to IUCN data
, wildlife criminals have killed at least 5 940 African rhino since 2008. South Africa currently conserves 79% of Africa’s rhino and has suffered the bulk (85%) of the crime. For the first time in a decade, thanks to the concerted efforts by all involved in countering the onslaught, poaching in South Africa decreased in 2015. It did so again in 2016. However, the number of rhino killed remains alarmingly high and KwaZulu-Natal saw an increase from 118 rhino poached in 2015, to 162 in 2016.
Number of rhino poached in South Africa in 2017: 529
- In Kruger National Park: 243
- In KwaZulu-Natal: 142
Thanks to the support of the Dutch
postcode lotteries and other donors, Peace Parks Foundation has been working closely with the South African government and its conservation management authorities, South African National Parks and Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife in implementing the multifaceted Rhino Protection Programme
Supported by Cartier, Peace Parks Foundation and Panthera are working through Panthera’s Furs for Life Project
to conserve the world’s most persecuted big cat – the leopard.
Wildlife crime cannot be fought on one front only. While the region’s governments are endeavouring to address the demand side, using diplomatic channels, those same governments and other stakeholders are working to stem the tide at ground level. Peace Parks Foundation is assisting the region’s governments in their endeavours to combat wildlife crime. As with all TFCA work, donors play a vital role. Please assist us
with this crucial undertaking.