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Illegal Wildlife Trade

Volume 638: debated on Tuesday 27 March 2018

The UK is taking a leading role in ending the illegal wildlife trade globally. The Government are funding practical action to reduce demand, strengthen enforcement and develop sustainable livelihoods in the communities affected by the illegal wildlife trade. We will host an ambitious high-level international conference in October to push for further progress.

Does the Minister agree that it is often the same criminal groups involved in the illegal wildlife trade who smuggle drugs, people-traffic and commit other nefarious acts? Does that not demonstrate why it is right that we do all we can to tackle them head on?

My hon. Friend is absolutely right to say that organised crime is attracted to the illegal wildlife trade, as it is attracted to others such as the drug trade and human trafficking. That is why this is a transnational problem, and why the world must work together to end this terrible crime.

British scientists have developed new forensic techniques to help to identify ivory poachers, including new fingerprint kits. Will my hon. Friend continue to support scientific techniques to try to clamp down on illegal wildlife traders?

My hon. Friend is absolutely right to say that having the right forensic evidence in place is crucial. Indeed, many of the projects that the UK is supporting worldwide are using that expertise to get the right forensics, so that the criminals can be prosecuted and these crimes can be tackled worldwide.

The Minister will know that this is an important international issue, but the products also land in the United Kingdom. What discussions is she having with the Home Office to ensure that we raise the level of fines for those in receipt of illegal wildlife material in this country?

The right hon. Gentleman is right to suggest that it is crucial that we work to tackle this illegal trade right across the Government, not only with the Home Office but with our colleagues in the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, to ensure that we consult on further restrictions on this trade.

The Minister will be aware of the pitiful sight of the last remaining species of some wildlife disappearing from our planet for ever. What steps are being taken to ensure that that is not replicated, particularly across the continent of Africa?

The whole world was shocked by the case of Sudan, the last male northern white rhino. He was the last of the species. This shows the absolute urgency for the world to act together to tackle this illegal crime, which is why it is so important that we host the international conference in October.

The passing of Sudan marks not only the ending of that species; we could see the end of many other species in Africa and other countries if we do not take the lead and show the world what we are doing. I have been campaigning to stop elephants disappearing, as my hon. Friend is aware. Can we make sure that we take the lead in the world?

I pay tribute to my hon. Friend and her remarkable track record of campaigning on this issue. She is absolutely right to highlight the fact that, according to the Living Planet Index, global populations of fish, birds, mammals, amphibians and reptiles declined by 58% between 1970 and 2012. It is therefore crucial that, as a world, we work together to tackle this terrible crime.

On average, the UK Border Force seized 130 kg of illegally trafficked ivory in the years from 2013 to 2016, but in 2017 the figure fell to 40 kg. Is that because the trade is shrinking or because the Government are not catching as much?

It is testament to the incredibly important work that is done by the UK Border Force and the work that we do through the National Crime Agency overseas. In Côte d’Ivoire recently, I saw the work that we are doing with the police force on this worldwide phenomenon. We need to work together internationally to tackle this heinous crime.