Wildlife crime generates income for non-state armed groups and terrorist organizations in Central and East Africa says a top Interpol official while participating in the United for Wildlife (UfW) global summit.
“There is a convergence between illegal wildlife trafficking and other serious crimes and terrorism as wildlife crime generates income for non-state armed groups and terrorist organizations in Central and East Africa,” said INTERPOL’s Executive Director of Police Services, Stephen Kavanagh.
He cited the example of Al-Shabaab pointing to their involvement in the illicit ivory trade.
According to Kavanagh, Organized crime syndicates trafficking ivory and other illicit goods to Asia, the U.S., and Europe are often also involved in the trafficking of weapons and drugs, fueling corruption, intimidation, and even murder along the supply chain.
With its links to violent crime, corruption, and other forms of trafficking, environmental crime is a transnational criminal powerhouse worth more than USD 280 billion a year, the third most lucrative crime globally, behind drug trafficking and counterfeit crimes.
Poaching and trafficking undermine the rule of law and economic development. The transnational organized criminal groups that are driving the killing and extinction of species such as rhinos, elephants, and big cats and endangering marine life also threaten the security and livelihood of local communities worldwide.
“Often overlooked and under-prosecuted, wildlife crime is a sophisticated and serious crime with far-reaching and devastating consequences not just to wildlife, but to communities and the wellbeing of the planet,” he added.
“Wildlife trafficking is frequently viewed as a low-risk, high-profit activity for offenders who face limited penalties,” he said further.
In this respect, INTERPOL underscored at the summit the role of global cross-sector partnerships against the illegal wildlife trade, which is worth some USD 20 billion per year alone.
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Through its dedicated Environmental Security Programme (ENS) and its center for tackling financial crime and corruption (IFCACC), INTERPOL is working with partners worldwide to target the vast profits made from these types of crimes and help dismantle the criminal networks behind them.