More than 93% of crimes against wildlife in Spain went untried between 2015 and 2020

93.3% of environmental crimes in Spain between 2015 and 2020 went untried, according to research carried out by WWF with the International Center for Environmental Law Studies (CIEDA-CIEMAT), the University of Granada (UGR) and the Institute for Advanced Social Studies (IESA-CSIC). Specifically, of the 4,902 registered cases, 327 obtained a court ruling, that is, 6.67%.

The report indicates, for example, that of the 1,773 cases of crimes for shooting against protected speciesonly a total of 15 resulted in sentences. The 1,899 reported cases of species poisoningFor their part, they only managed to culminate in a sentence on 26 occasions.

The results of the report have been presented this week at a technical conference on wildlife crime held in the assembly hall of the Ministry of Ecological Transition and Demographic Challenge (MITECO).

During the sessions, different experts have addressed the magnitude and impacts of poaching, as well as the objectives and motivations of the Spanish Action Plan against Illegal Traffic and International Poaching of Wild Species (TIFIES).

“Environmental crimes are highly technical crimes that require extensive research and specialisation, you have to work from the base, you have to take cases and not settle”, pointed out the head of Europol’s Team to Fight Environmental Crimes, José Antonio Alfaro.

Among the crimes of an environmental nature is the species traffickingas explained by the Section Head of the area in charge of the TIFIES plan at MITECO, Diana Pérez-Arana, is “the third most lucrative illicit business (behind arms and drug trafficking) worldwide” that, in the market black, moves between 10,000 and 23,000 million euros a year.

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“exponential” increase

In recent years, this activity has experienced an “exponential” growth, more pronounced in the trafficking of certain species such as rhinos, elephants or tigers, among others. Thus, Pérez-Arana has influenced during his presentation that, only in seven years between 2007 and 2014, in South Africa lThe rhino hunting rate increased by “seven thousand percent”going from 13 specimens killed to 1200 for the same purpose.

The removal of species from their natural environments can generate a “cascade effect” in the ecosystem, unbalancing it and affecting other species. Added to this habitat deformation, as Pérez-Arana explained, is the “voluntary release of these pets” which can become “invasive alien species with all the problems that these species have for biodiversity.”

As pointed out by the researcher at the Institute for Advanced Social Studies (IESA-CSIC) Zebensui Morales-Reyes, trafficking in live specimens is the main form of trafficking in Spain, followed by coral trafficking with 15 percent.

“It is not a unique problem in Spain, but rather a total of 74 countries involved in the export of species and among which 5 countries that act as intermediary countries and 11 destination countries”, Morales-Reyes pointed out.

Within the framework of the TIFIES Plan, the speakers have highlighted “prevention, improvement of compliance with the application of regulations and international cooperation” as priorities of this regulation. Likewise, WWF has reiterated the need to increase specialization among the agents of the judicial chain to increase the number of environmental crimes prosecuted and avoid that they are only processed through administrative channels or remain unresolved.

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WWF research has revealed that the poaching (1,773 cases) leads crimes against wildlife, followed by poisoning (1,899 cases) and the use or possession of illegal capture methods (446).

“Lack of awareness is one of the main drivers of wildlife crime and, for its part, the exchange of knowledge, cross-border cooperation and between institutions at the national level and the increase in specialization in the police and judicial chain is crucial to address the complexity of these crimes,” Morales-Reyes explained.

In the fight against this type of crime, MITECO collaborates jointly with the Ministry of the Interior –with the contribution of the Nature Protection Service (SEPRONA)–, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Ministry of Finance for the surveillance of the entry of this type of merchandise through customsas well as with the Environment Coordinating Prosecutor’s Office.

Together with MITECO, the Ministry of the Interior also collaborates in this plan –with the contribution of the Nature Protection Service (SEPRONA)–, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Ministry of Finance to monitor the entry of this type of goods through customs.

“Collaboration with SEPRONA is fundamentally focused on the agent training and support in operations to remind them of key issues that make the operation easier, more operative and more efficient”, Pérez-Arana pointed out.

Activity related to other crimes

At an international level, the collaboration of Europol makes it possible to trace and detect the organizations that are behind environmental crimes in terms of species trafficking and waste trafficking. As explained by the head of the Europol Environmental Crime Team, José Antonio Alfaro, the European body prepares reports (SOCTA) and in each one includes recommendations to the commission -through the COSI body- to finally send it to the Council .

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“Spain is doing its homework and, furthermore, it has always been a co-leader of these priorities from the beginning and for the next few years, however, we can continue to improve”, Alfaro stated.

In addition, he has warned that many cases of intra-European trafficking are linked to money laundering and corruption.

For José María Galván, a member of the National Plan to Combat Illegal Traffic and International Poaching, species trafficking is related to other types of criminal activities (extortion, tax evasion, money laundering, drug trafficking or illicit merchandise, among others) due to the “many blind spots” and “lack of oversight” in transnational traffic as a whole.

Both Alfaro and Galván, relying on the 2017 National Security Report and the December 2021 report, have reiterated the current danger of mobilizing pathogens posed by the dismantling of ecosystems.

Full report at this link:

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