Bird Killed for "Ivory" Just Another Victim of Wildlife Trade

The Helmeted Hornbill

By MarEx 2016-05-27 17:40:59

A new study has revealed that 13 bird species, including Indonesia’s national bird, the Javan Hawk-eagle, are at serious risk of extinction because of over-harvesting. The driver behind this crisis is the enormous demand for birds for the domestic pet trade, but one, the Helmeted Hornbill is an exception. Thousands of these birds are being illegally killed and traded for their unique beaks, carved as a substitute for elephant ivory to meet demand in China.

Coinciding with the publication of this study, the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) published its inaugural World Wildlife Crime Report, the first global assessment of its kind this week. The study highlights how the poaching and illegal trade of thousands of species worldwide presents environmental dangers and ultimately undermines the rule of law by potentially fuelling conflict. 

The report, part of UNODC's ongoing Global Programme on Wildlife and Forest Crime, extracts information from 164,000 seizures contained in a database of wildlife crime cases in 120 countries. They cover almost 7,000 different species, with no country the source for more than 15 percent of any seized shipments. 

Suspected traffickers of some 80 nationalities have been identified, illustrating the fact that wildlife crime is truly a global issue. All regions of the world play a role as a source, transit, or destination for contraband wildlife, although certain types of wildlife are strongly associated with each region. Birds are most strongly associated with Central and South America; mammals with Africa and Asia; reptiles with Europe and North America; and corals with Oceania.

The UNODC report calls for commercial traceability mechanisms to be strengthened. It states that although value intensive items like rhino horn may be air couriered, most volume consignments of illegal wildlife are transported in shipping containers. Further training for customs officials to profile suspect shipments and identify the species within would greatly enhance interdiction capacity.

According to UNODC Executive Director, Yury Fedotov: “The desperate plight of iconic species at the hands of poachers has deservedly captured the world’s attention, and none too soon. One of the critical messages to emerge from this research is that wildlife and forest crime is not limited to certain countries or regions. It is not a trade involving exotic goods from foreign lands being shipped to faraway markets.” 

The report offers an analysis of legal and illegal markets for wildlife and forest products, to assist in addressing vulnerabilities in the legal trade and promote better global regulatory systems. It highlights too how gaps in legislation, law enforcement and criminal justice systems present serious issues. 

In March, in recognition of the importance of stemming the illegal wildlife trade, 40 CEOs and other senior figures of airlines, shipping firms, port operators, customs agencies, intergovernmental organizations and conservation charities, including wildlife organization TRAFFIC, became the founding signatories of the Declaration of the United for Wildlife International Taskforce on the Transportation of Illegal Wildlife Products during an event that took place at Buckingham Palace in the U.K. Signatories included the Sustainable Shipping Initiative, Maersk Group, China COSCO Shipping, Dubai Ports World and the U.K. Chamber of Shipping.   

The UNODC report is available here and the Indonesian bird report is available here.

TRAFFIC contributed information towards the UNODC study, in particular on the reptile skin trade, while partner organizations in the project included those under the International Consortium on Combating Wildlife Crime (ICCWC), such as the Secretariat of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) and the World Customs Organization (WCO).