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Nature Conservation

Volume 508: debated on Monday 22 March 2010

To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what steps he is taking in (a) this country and (b) international forums to curb illegal trade in endangered species. (322743)

Primary responsibility for enforcing wildlife legislation rests with the Police Service and the UK Border Agency. DEFRA actively supports their activities through the Partnership for Action Against Wildlife Crime (PAW).

DEFRA, together with the Home Office, is the main source of funding for the National Wildlife Crime Unit (NWCU). The UK is one of only a handful of countries having a specialist wildlife crime unit and is a world leader in this respect. The Unit spearheads national action to reduce wildlife crime and is the UK's focal point for international wildlife crime enquiries.

The UK has selected wildlife crime priorities for urgent action, either because of their impact on the conservation of certain species or because high levels of crime have been reported. The priorities include species covered by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES).

Endangered species listed on annexe A to CITES require licences in order to be traded within the UK. Animal Health operates a panel of wildlife inspectors who carry out inspections to ensure that the legislation is complied with; it also has an enforcement team which provides information from its records in support of prosecutions.

Internationally, the UK Government (through DEFRA) is the current chair of the Coalition Against Wildlife Trafficking (CAWT) - an international organisation which aims to focus public and political attention and resources on ending the illegal trade in wildlife and wildlife products.

Further international protection is offered by the UK's commitment to working with 174 other countries through our membership of CITES. Through CITES, member countries work to protect endangered species of plants and animals by restricting and monitoring international trade in them.