Illegal trade in wildlife and timber is globally worth US$213 billion every year, and helps fund militia and terrorist groups, says a report released by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) on Tuesday.
Wildlife trafficking of both dead and *live* animals and plants, used as traditional medicine, pets or food could be worth US$23 billion a year says the report released at the week-long United Nations Environment Assembly here. Around 25,000 elephants are poached in Africa annually, and African ivory may constitute an “end-use street value” of US$ 188 million in Asia.
From 2005 to 2011, around 22,000 great apes could have been lost from the wild from illegal activities, with chimpanzees comprising 64 per cent of the number. The report “The Environment Crime Crisis” combines assessments by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development, United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, UNEP and INTERPOL.
However, revenue from wildlife crime “is dwarfed” by income from illegal logging, says the report. Illegal felling of high value wood species such as mahogany, timber for furniture and building, wood for pulp and paper and charcoal together represent a value of $100 billion annually. As much as 86 per cent of illegal tropical wood entering the European Union and the U.S. comes in the form of paper, pulp or wood chips, while in Africa, 90 per cent of the wood consumed is used for fuel and charcoal.
Wildlife and forest crimes play a serious role in “threat finance” to organized crime and terrorist organizations, says the report. Ivory is likely the primary source of income to the Lord’s Resistance Army operating in the border triangle of South Sudan, Democratic Republic of Congo and Central African Republic (CAR). Countries with ongoing conflict such as Mali, Congo, CAR, Sudan and Somalia the report’s “conservative estimate” is that militia and terrorist groups gain up to $289 million a year by illicitly collecting taxes from the unregulated charcoal trade.
Addressing a press conference UNEP Executive Director Achim Steiner said that the growing scale and sophistication of environmental crime called for greater policy action that should build on initiatives such as the CITES COP in Bangkok and the Botswana Elephant Summit.