On 20 December 2013, at its 68th session, the United Nations General Assembly proclaimed 3 March as World Wildlife Day to highlight the intrinsic value and contribution of the world’s wild animals and plants, and to raise awareness of the dangers some species face, particularly those that are protected or whose survival is endangered.
The WCO wishes to add its voice in support of this important day, whose theme this year – ‘Listen to the Young Voices’ – aims to inspire young people around the world to actively participate in wildlife conservation efforts.
The illicit exploitation of wildlife is not only big business, but is also run by international criminal networks, where experts estimate the value of this lucrative ‘trade’ to be between five and 20 billion US dollars per year, making wildlife trafficking the world's fourth largest criminal activity.
The recent wildlife focused operation called ‘Thunderbird’, coordinated by INTERPOL as a member of the International Consortium on Combatting Wildlife Crime (ICCWC) which consist of the CITES Secretariat, UNODC, World Bank, INTERPOL and the WCO, saw Customs, police, environmental protection agencies and other role-players working together in February 2017. This operation has again shown the value of coordinated joint operations in the fight against illegal wildlife trade, underscoring the importance of global partnerships.
Operation Thunderbird resulted in more than 1300 large seizures, ranging from animals (live specimens, parts and their products) to timber (raw wood and manufactured goods) and plants (live specimens and medicinals). So far, countries have identified the involvement of at least 882 individuals related to the reported seizures.
The strategic role of Customs as a ‘first line of defence’ on imports and as a ‘last control’ on exports has again been highlighted, including the important role it plays in coordinating law enforcement efforts.
At least 475 seizures have an international component, of which 388 are transcontinental cases. In other words, in more than 35 per cent of cases, the commodity originated from, transited through, or was destined to another country and/or continent than where the seizure occurred.
The WCO, which is actively involved in curbing the illegal wildlife trade, wishes to encourage all its Members to continue to actively contribute towards activities and initiatives designed to reduce this harmful illicit trade, either individually or as part of the broader Customs and global law enforcement community.