EU approach against wildlife trafficking delivers mixed results at mid-term review


On the 26th of October, the European Commission presented its mid-term evaluation of the EU Action Plan against Wildlife Trafficking, adopted in 2016. While the report acknowledges progress in some sectors, it also shows more needs to be done to address the trafficking of exotic pets and tackle the persistent ivory trade.  

Illegal wildlife trade has escalated exponentially in recent years, and has attracted the involvement of organised criminal networks as a result of it being considered a low risk/high return activity. The European Union is not only a major destination market for illegal wildlife products, but also serves as a transit hub for trafficking to other regions. The EU Action Plan adopted in 2016, empowers Member States and the EU to act coherently and more efficiently against wildlife trafficking . Prevention, stronger enforcement and global partnerships are the 3 strands of the EU Action Plan.

Two years after the Action Plan entered into force, this report demonstrates  the Plan’s critical role in raising political attention and support at the EU level to combat wildlife trafficking. The Plan concretely incentivised EU and national initiatives such as a budget exceeding 300 million Euro dedicated to support the fight against wildlife trafficking in developing countries. The action plan also led to stronger efforts to protect species threatened by the international exotic pet trade under the CITES convention .

However, despite the Report’s acknowledgment of the EU’s importance as a market for exotic pets, Eurogroup for Animals believes not enough has been done to better regulate this trade. More preventative and structural measures are needed to facilitate enforcement and reduce the demand for protected species. Good practices like the use of Positive Lists for the trade and keeping of animals should be considered.  

Upon reading the report, Reineke Hameleers, Director of Eurogroup for Animals commented : “We welcome the European Commission’s intention to focus on the exotic pet sector during the second half of the Action Plan’s implementation. We urge the Commission to follow the recommendation of the European Parliament and to consider the adoption of an EU-wide Positive List for exotic pets to facilitate Member States’ enforcement efforts.  As demonstrated by the Belgian experience, the adoption of a Positive List of allowed pets provides clarity to enforcement authorities and effectively reduces the demand for illegal species in the long term”.    

Disappointingly, the Report misses a Commission’s clear commitment to further restrict ivory trade in and from the EU. With at least 20,000 African elephants killed each year for their ivory, this commitment is the long-overdue follow-up of the last year public consultation in which the vast majority of the 90,000 respondents asked for tightening the current EU rules on ivory trade.

Eurogroup for Animals urges the Commission to promptly translate the European citizens’ call on further restricting ivory trade into a comprehensive and permanent ban on external and domestic trade in raw and worked ivory. We are looking forward to working constructively with the Commission and Member States to make sure the next phase of the Action Plan will deliver more concrete results.

Sophie De Jonckheere, Communications and Development Manager,
Ilaria di Silvestre, Wildlife Programme leader,  

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