The illegal ivory trade more than doubled since 2007 and more than tripled since its last peak in 1998. In the past three years, more than 100,000 African Elephants were killed. To tackle the issue, the European Commission is exploring the role businesses may play in reducing the trade of illegal animal parts in the EU. Ricardo-AEA has been selected to assess and recommend initiatives aimed at combating the illegal wildlife trade through greater cooperation with businesses.
A recent WWF report discloses the scale of wildlife trafficking, counting records of over 100 million tonnes of fish, 1.5 million live birds and 440,000 tonnes of medicinal plants in trade over a year. Large animals also fall foul to poachers. It was reported that the African Elephant population lost 100,000 of the estimated 472,000 – 690,000 herd in the past three years. A recent Chatham House report highlights the extent of the issue and found that the estimated illegal ivory trade has more than doubled since 2007, and is now over three times larger than it was during the last peak in 1998.
The value of ivory on the street has also steadily increased, reaching $2,205 per kilogram in Beijing, while rhino horn sells for $66,139 per kilogram – more than the price of gold or platinum – on the Chinese black market.
The poaching of wildlife is not only threatening the survival of several species, it also undermines the rule of law and sustainable development. The illegal wildlife trade, excluding fisheries and timber, is estimated to be worth between $8 – 10 billion a year globally. Given the scale of the illegal activity, the European Commission (EC) is working to curb the continued poaching of animals. To accomplish this, the EC is developing ways through which the EU is better able to tackling the illegal wildlife trade and, where applicable, approaches to prevent other kinds of illegal trade.
To assist in this task, the EC hired Ricardo-AEA. The consulting firm will assess different models of cooperation initiative between public and business players. The commissioned study will focus on initiatives relevant to EU players in regional markets, but will also consider their operations outside the EU. The sectors surveyed will be those associated with the trade of potentially poached goods, including the exotic pet sector, luxury goods industry and importers specialising in traditional medicine, as well as online trading and courier and freight companies that facilitate trade into or within the EU. Further consideration will be given to industries involved in extraction and agri-business, which impact on wildlife conservation outside the EU in ways that can promote illegal wildlife trade.
The project involves a number of partner organisations, including from TRAFFIC* and SIA ELLE (involved in the EU Business & Biodiversity Platform), to include expertise in the illegal wildlife trade, the regulatory environment, corporate social responsibility, as well as key stakeholders in the public and private sectors. The results of the study, as well as recommendations, will be presented to the EC at the start of November this year.
Commenting on the project, Richard Smithers, Ricardo-AEA’s Project Manager, says: “Despite the presence of an extensive legal framework governing wildlife trade, the problem of illegal trade is increasing at an alarming rate. Businesses have the potential to play a key role in addressing this problem thanks to their direct links to consumers and suppliers, political influence and financial resources.”
* TRAFFIC is a global wildlife trade monitoring network that works on trade in wild animals and plants in the context of both biodiversity conservation and sustainable development.