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Why we must fight hunting

PLEA: Wildlife crime destroys livelihoods, says Helen Grant

IT IS impossible not to be stunned, amazed or even moved by the majesty of the great animals, such as the elephant, the tiger, the lion, the rhino or the whale, who bestride swathes of the globe’s land and sea.

To most of us, it is unthinkable that anyone would wish to do harm to creatures of such beauty, but sadly the threat posed by evil poachers is real.

Since 1970 the global population of vertebrate animals has fallen by almost 60 per cent, the number of African elephants has fallen by two thirds and the population of wild tigers in Asia has fallen by 95 per cent since 1900.

Wildlife crime represents the largest direct threat to our planet’s most endangered species.

However, the illegal wildlife trade does not just pose a threat to the most beautiful animals in the world, it also threatens humanity; particularly the very poorest communities in the world.

The trade destroys livelihoods, empowers criminals and deprives governments of public money because it is the same criminal networks that smuggle tusks and horns who smuggle guns, drugs and people, launder money and fund conflict.


PASSIONATE: Helen Grant

It is estimated the illegal wildlife trade is the fourth most profitable criminal enterprise in the world. This matters to us all because the interests of humanity simply can’t be separated from the natural world.

I am enormously proud of the world-leading role that the UK government is playing in combatting the illegal wildlife trade and protecting endangered species around the world.

ILLEGAL
Domestically, the globe’s toughest ban on ivory sales has become law in the UK and, last year, the United Kingdom hosted a ground-breaking conference on the illegal wildlife trade.

The conference brought global leaders to London to tackle the strategic challenges of the trade.

At the conference, the government announced £3.5million of funding to tackle the scourge of wildlife crime around the world.

Among other things, the money allows UK military personnel to train park rangers in East and South Africa in poacher interception techniques, and for Border Force officers to share their expertise in identifying smuggled ivory.

This is Global Britain at its best using our resources, expertise and influence to tackle the most fundamental challenges facing the international population.

This month the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) is meeting for their three-yearly decision-making conference in Geneva. CITES, first formed in the 1960s, is an international agreement between 183 members which aims to ensure that international trade between wild animals and plants does not threaten their survival.

CONSERVATION
This year, concerningly, proposals are being considered to loosen the restrictions on the sale of ivory.

Some nations argue that this would improve conservation efforts as it would provide communities with an economic stake in the survival of the elephants.

However, I would urge extreme caution. Recent history tells us that when the ban on trade in ivory has been eased this has always precipitated a fall in the elephant population.

International efforts must therefore be focussed on ensuring global regulations are stronger than ever, rather than loosening the rules.

Now is the time to accelerate and cement the progress made in protecting the most endangered species on the planet. We simply cannot afford to take our foot off the peddle.

Helen Grant is MP for Maidstone and the Weald.

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