INTERPOL meeting deliberates on online investigation, cybercrime threats in illegal wildlife trade

INTERPOL’s Wildlife Crime Working Group recently convened experts from across the world to shape collaborative responses to wildlife and forestry crime.

The five-day meeting – held on October 9 – 13 in Singapore – gathered some 100 experts from law enforcement, academia, NGOs and the private sector in 38 countries to strengthen collaboration amongst all environmental security stakeholders and shape practical solutions to the most pressing threats to the world’s forests and biodiversity.

(TOP: A wildlife products market. Photo: OneGreenPlanet).

In addition to developing strategies for preventing and combating wildlife crime, including ivory trafficking, the working group also reviewed issues related to online wildlife trafficking.

With the first two days of the meeting open to civil society, key topics on the agenda included collaboration between transport sector and law enforcement against wildlife trafficking; online investigation and cybercrime threats related to illegal wildlife trade; and integrity, anti-corruption and anti-money-laundering efforts.

“Wildlife crime, such as poaching, the traffic in illegal ivory or illegal logging, can lead to the extinction of a species, the loss of biodiversity, and serious damage to the ecosystems that support our very existence. The problems are not limited to individual nations as plants and animals are trafficked across borders, it is a challenge we must address collectively,” said Sheldon Jordan, Chair of the Wildlife Crime Working Group.

The Director-General of Singapore’s Agri-Food & Veterinary Authority, Dr Yap Him Hoo, said: “Poaching and the illegal wildlife trade have a devastating impact on the environment. We share a common goal in devising effective strategies to curb these problems and dismantle the criminal syndicates responsible for smuggling wildlife.”

The meeting also gathered operational coordinators from different regions who took part in INTERPOL-coordinated environmental security actions on the ground – including Operation Thunderbird in January and February of this year.

The global operation tackled the illegal trade in wildlife and timber and involved police, customs, border agencies, environment, wildlife and forestry officials from 49 countries and territories.

It resulted in the identification of nearly 900 suspects and 1,300 seizures of illicit products worth an estimated US $5.1 million. These included more than 50kg of raw and processed ivory, some four tonnes of pangolin scales and 300 tonnes of wood and timber.

“Wildlife and forestry crime are global problems that require global solutions. By bringing together specialized criminal investigators from around the world, the INTERPOL Wildlife Crime Working Group provides an opportunity to maximize the global impact of our activities and devise new collaborative initiatives against criminals who each year steal billions of dollars from local communities and countries worldwide,” said Daoming Zhang, Assistant Director of INTERPOL’s Illicit Markets programme.

The INTERPOL Wildlife Crime Working Group initiates and leads a number of projects to combat the poaching, trafficking, or possession of legally protected flora and fauna. In addition to the development of activities and projects to address wildlife and forestry crime, the working group examines ways to enhance cooperation between law enforcement and civil society.

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