These are the conclusions of A new report released Wednesday by WWF’s LIFE SWiPE project, providing the most comprehensive picture to date on the state of wildlife crime in Europe.
Data collected from 11 European countries reveals that between 2016 and 2020 the most common wildlife crimes were the illegal killing of wildlife (27%), the use of poisoned baits (16%) or methods of hunting prohibited (14%) and illegal wildlife trade (13%).
Fighting environmental crime, including wildlife trafficking, is one of the ten priorities of the Council of the EU in the fight against organized crime. A revision of the EU Environmental Crime Directive is currently under negotiation.
“The European Parliament and the Council must communicate that these crimes are not tolerated in Europe, ensuring that the revised directive on environmental crime is sufficiently strong and ambitious,” said Audrey Chambaudet, Policy Officer, Wildlife Trade and Wildlife Crime at the European WWF Policy Office.
“All major environmental crimes should be covered by the directive and maximum prison sentences must be high enough to deter wildlife crime,” he added.
The report reveals that the goldfinch is the most targeted species, subject to multiple criminal activities including hunting tourism and illegal trade. Other frequent victims of wildlife crime include threatened species of birds of prey, targeted by poison bait, and large carnivores such as bears, wolves or lynxes.
At the heart of the problem is the lack of report of crime against wildlife.
“Wildlife is not reported missing like humans and cannot self-report itself as a victim, so most of these acts go unreported and, in all likelihood, many more go undetected,” said Roselina Stoeva, LIFE SWiPE project manager.
Although reported, many cases of wildlife crime have not been prosecuted. According to the report, an average of 60 percent of wildlife crime complaints received by the prosecution did not lead to prosecution.
Specialized policing, the use of technologies such as drones for tracking and training multiple sniffer dogs to detect poisonings and other crimes are some examples of good practices to promote the prosecution of these crimes across Europe.
The report also calls on co-legislators in the bloc to consider tougher sentences, including imprisonment, for offenses covered by the Environmental Crimes Directive.