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EU politicians join NGOs’ call to solve the wildlife rescue crisis in Europe

Photo: AAP Animal Advocacy and Protection / Dani Oshi

Yesterday Martin Hojsík MEP and the European Parliament’s Intergroup on the Welfare and Conservation of Animals hosted an event in the European Parliament to discuss Europe’s wildlife rescue crisis. MEPs, Member States’ representatives and animal welfare NGOs all came to the conclusion that increased coordination and more support is needed at the EU level to combat the illegal wildlife trade and tackle the current shortage of rescue capacity. A newly published White Paper by AAP Animal Advocacy and Protection, which explores the critical role played by rescue facilities in the fight against the illegal wildlife trade, served as a basis for discussions. 

Our work as a community working hand in hand with enforcement authorities is often hindered by unclear or unevenly applied legislation throughout the EU, outdated regulations which do not keep up with the dynamic nature of wildlife rescue and, of course, a structural lack of funds,” stated David van Gennep, Chairman of EARS Board and CEO at AAP Animal Advocacy and Protection.

AAP Animal Advocacy and Protection, Eurogroup for Animals and the European Alliance of Rescue Centres and Sanctuaries (EARS) highlighted the work of rescue centres in Europe and drew attention to some key challenges. Across Europe there is significant demand for facilities which can house seized, confiscated and surrendered exotic animals. Many rescue centres, sanctuaries and zoos in Europe are key to ensuring the welfare of these animals. However, given the increase in rescue requests and the limited number of certified facilities, providing proper housing for these animals has become more and more challenging. 

According to a survey conducted by AAP and EARS, the main reason why rescue facilities are unable to accept new animals is the lack of space to host them. 46 of the 112 rescue centres interviewed identified this as the main reason for refusing animals, followed by the lack of appropriate skills and enclosures (18) and lack of funds (16). This shortage is caused by a combination of factors, among others the growing illegal trade in wildlife and the exploding trend to keep exotic pets, which often end up abandoned, or the implementation of new but necessary legislation such as bans of wild animals in circuses.

Sadly, in most cases these animals cannot be returned to their original country or habitat. The rescue centres and their competent staff are therefore key in helping the authorities to identify these animals, provide appropriate transport and housing, and ultimately care for them,” said Martin Hojsík MEP (Renew Europe, SK) who co-hosted the event together with Anja Hazekamp MEP (GUE/NGL, NL), President of the Intergroup on the Welfare and Conservation of Animals.

The White Paper presented at the conference outlines measures to improve the current rescue situation. It calls on the EU and its Member States to provide more funding to these centres and support them in their activities. It also calls on the EU to develop harmonised guidance for Member States and country-specific action plans for exotic animals’ rescue. In addition, the White Paper highlights that the EU should ensure the consistent interpretation of rules and regulations related to exotic animal rescue. 

“In the final evaluation of the EU Action Plan against Wildlife Trafficking, expected in 2020, the EU should commit to providing consistent support to appropriate rescue centres and sanctuaries across Europe to ensure that the animals can be properly cared for in the long term” concluded Reineke Hameleers, Eurogroup for Animals’ Director and one of the speakers at the event. 

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