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WWF - Vital UK police unit given lifeline to tackle wildlife crime
This week, the UK government committed long term funding for the National Wildlife Crime Unit for the next four years.
Rory Stewart, Environment Minister, announced that Defra and the Home Office would each commit £136,000 a year over the next four years to the unit. Defra also committed additional funding of up to £29,000 a year until March 2020 for its work to address wildlife crime online. The current funding was due to run out at the end of this month.
WWF-UK’s Chief Adviser on Wildlife, Heather Sohl said in response to the news: “We’re thrilled at the Government’s announcement of continued funding for the National Wildlife Crime Unit over the next four years. The UK has shown strong international leadership on this issue and with the long term commitment to this vital police unit, it demonstrates the Government is serious about fighting the illegal wildlife trade within our own borders. This is a critical year in the battle against the illegal wildlife trade and we must continue to show zero tolerance for this criminal activity ahead of the CITES CoP17 in September.”
The National Wildlife Crime Unit (NWCU) is a small, but highly effective specialist police unit that provides expert support to tackle all wildlife crime in the UK. It is at the front line to stopping illegal trade in threatened species here in the UK and is a vital link in international efforts to stamp out this trade.
There’s been an unprecedented spike in illegal wildlife trade in recent years, increasingly involving large-scale, organised criminal networks. This poses an immediate threat not only to wildlife, but also to security, rule of law, economic growth, social development, and the well-being of local communities and the rangers that are working to protect wildlife.
The NWCU provides co-ordination and direction to the UK’s enforcement of wildlife crime laws. It is the central point for expertise and information sharing, working with other enforcement agencies from local police to the UK Border Force, and EUROPOL, INTERPOL and enforcement authorities in other countries, to more effectively tackle wildlife crime. This means that the UK is one of the most respected countries in terms of combating such crime.
The good news comes after the report that fourteen members of an organised criminal gang were found guilty of plotting to steal artefacts, including rhino horn, from across museums in the UK. In South Africa alone 1,175 rhinos were killed by poachers last year. These convictions demonstrate that such wildlife crime needs serious attention here in the UK, and WWF hopes that the sentence given will be severe enough to reflect the true impact of such crimes and deter such criminal activity in the future.
For more information please contact:
Lianne Mason, Press Officer, External Communications & Campaigns, WWF-UK
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