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Illegal Wildlife Trade

Volume 648: debated on Tuesday 30 October 2018

2. What steps the Government are taking with international partners to tackle the illegal wildlife trade. (907344)

9. What steps the Government are taking with international partners to tackle the illegal wildlife trade. (907351)

16. What steps the Government are taking with international partners to tackle the illegal wildlife trade. (907358)

Earlier this month, London hosted the largest ever illegal wildlife trade conference, with representation from more than 70 countries and 400 organisations. Ministers from the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs and the Department for International Development announced additional support for developing countries to tackle IWT. I pay tribute my right hon. Friend the Member for Uxbridge and South Ruislip (Boris Johnson) and my hon. Friend the Member for Richmond Park (Zac Goldsmith) for all the work that they have done and continue to do to advance this agenda.

Many of the countries where there is wildlife crime involving iconic species such as elephant and rhino are war-torn. That is a huge problem that makes it dangerous for the rangers and others who try to protect the wildlife. What more can we do to help war-torn countries? It is essential that we do so.

I am sure my hon. Friend is grateful that the London conference highlighted the links he has pointed out between human conflict and IWT. DFID has committed to spend at least 50% of its annual budget in fragile and conflict-afflicted states. Although that does not impact directly on IWT, it should help to reduce it. The IWT challenge fund and the Darwin fund have also supported projects in countries such as the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Afghanistan and Sudan. Trophy hunting occurs in a few countries with well-developed tourist industries, but it is unlikely to be a major feature of war-torn countries.

I congratulate and thank the Ministers for what they are doing to tackle this appalling trade. Does he agree that one of the most important aspects of tackling it is to create mutual economic interest for local tribespeople and farmers to support wildlife? Does he support the work of the excellent Laikipia Wildlife Forum in Kenya, which was set up by the great British conservationist Dr Anthony King?

I thank my hon. Friend for his comments. A Chatham House study presented at the London conference on transboundary green corridors supported the view that the creation of jobs and local prosperity partnerships can indeed help to protect endangered species. That is why we secured an uplift of some £6 million for the IWT challenge fund, and why DFID is committed to further such work to address these issues.

Now that the Government have confirmed that we will adopt a world-leading ban on the ivory trade that applies to ivory of all ages, what steps is the Minister taking to put pressure on other countries to adopt a similar measure, particularly those in the Chinese area?

We very much welcome China’s closure of the domestic ivory market. It is, of course, the single largest market in the world. It is vital to ensure that the ban is properly and fully enforced, and that the ivory trade is not allowed simply to relocate to other parts of south-east Asia, or indeed anywhere else. We shall continue to work with the Chinese Government and other Governments to ensure that that does not happen.

The illegal poaching trade is worth £16 billion worldwide and is one of the largest organised crimes in the world. What assurance can the Minister give the House that that money is not being laundered through UK banks?

In specific terms, I cannot give direct assurances, but that is clearly something we will work on. The hon. Gentleman is absolutely right that the illegal wildlife trade is very much a security issue. One of the real achievements of the conference—something for which I have pushed for some time—was that it made that clear. IWT is often the soft underbelly of the very worst sorts of criminality, not least money laundering, the narcotics trade and people trafficking.

In the media today, there are indications that China intends to lift its ban on the sale of rhino and tiger remedies. What discussions has the Minister had with the Chinese Government to ensure that the ban is retained, not removed?

We are aware of the announcement by the Chinese State Council in the last couple of days concerning the domestic trade in tiger bone and rhino horn. We are concerned, and we will make representations that any changes should not have a negative impact on the tackling of the illegal wildlife trade. Of course, we will raise this issue at the earliest opportunity with our Chinese counterparts.

I am glad to hear my right hon. Friend the Minister speak about the connection between wildlife crime and other forms of instability. Does he agree that the work that is done by several organisations to preserve not just natural heritage but architectural and archaeological heritage is essential in helping people to have the sense of identity, place and belonging that is so essential to resisting forces such as ISIS and other extremist elements?

My hon. Friend is absolutely right. I spoke earlier about the need globally to recognise that in the case of criminality, we live in an interconnected world. As he rightly points out, a sense of place and being is an important aspect. Many might feel that a concentration on the illegal wildlife trade is, to a certain extent, a Cinderella area, but it is an important aspect of what the Foreign and Commonwealth Office is trying to achieve through its soft power initiatives.

I thank my right hon. Friend for his work in making the illegal wildlife trade summit a couple of weeks ago an enormous success. I know he will join me in welcoming the efforts of Zambia, Zimbabwe, Namibia, Angola and Botswana to work together to deliver the KAZA programme, a massively ambitious cross-border conservation plan linking their countries together. May I urge him to use all his diplomatic skills to support that initiative and also to ensure that DFID provides whatever support it can?

I should perhaps thank my hon. Friend again: not only is he very committed to this, but a huge amount of his time over the past six months was spent on ensuring that the IWT conference was such a great success. I do not want to step on the toes of my hon. Friend the Minister for Africa on these matters, but I will of course do all that I can. The other important aspect of what we are trying to achieve with elephant corridors such as the one to which my hon. Friend the Member for Richmond Park (Zac Goldsmith) referred is to recognise that technology has an important part to play in clamping down on the illegal wildlife trade. That is an important aspect of where we see this issue going in the years to come.