Joining forces: great participation at the first intersectoral EU Wildlife Crime Workshop

More than 120 wildlife crime experts and law enforcement representatives from 20 countries met at the conference in Madrid to exchange knowledge and improve cross-border collaboration

Simultaneously with the NATO Summit, more than 120 European wildlife crime experts met in Madrid to exchange the latest findings on the matter and analize best practices. The interagency meeting provided for the first time a fruitful space for dialogue and networking among experts along the law enforcement chain, from police bodies to prosecutors and judges.

During the 3-days event, the experts had the chance to actively participate in a series of practical workshops, panel discussions and interactive sessions to analize and improve the different steps that lead to an effective prosecution of wildlife crimes. The workshop brought to light the real impact of such crimes on biodiversity, human health and livelihoods.

“Wildlife crimes are one of the leading causes of biodiversity loss, a great obstacle for wildlife conservation and the fourth most lucrative type of organized crime in the world. Crimes like poaching, poisoning and trafficking both live animals and animal parts are profitable and difficult to detect, prosecute and convict. A lot of these crimes happen right here in Europe, with its “invisible” victims being the endangered European species and biodiversity;, and European countries are frequently transit countries or end locations for a lot of trafficked goods as well,” said the project manager for LIFE SWIPE Nada Tosheva at the workshop opening.

Wildlife crimes are not petty crimes

Environmental crime has been recognized by the EU Council as one of the ten priorities to fight against serious and organized crime. Hereupon, the Environmental Crime Directive is currently being under revision in order to make it more effective and increase its deterrent effect, as stated by Ms. Vita Jukné, Head of Unit from DG ENV (Environmental Rule of Law and Governance), who opened the workshop.

A complete agenda to tackle Wildlife crime

The three-day conference included several panel discussions with wildlife experts, multiple interactive workshops covering a range of topics – such as use of newest technologies to detect wildlife crime, useful tools and best practices from different countries, wildlife cybercrime and how to tackle it, and the link between WLC and other crimes, showing how wildlife crimes are detrimental not just to nature and wildlife conservation, but whole counties’ economies and entire human society as well.

Additionally, a specialised wildlife crime dog unit from Andalusia joined the conference, giving the participants an opportunity to observe a practical exercise in poison detection and crime scene discovery and investigation. During the whole exhibition, it was also stated that the effectiveness of such dog units greatly depend on the existence of a comprehensive strategy against wildlife crime.

Noa, a poison detection dog, and the team from the Andalusian Strategy against Poison during the exhibition

The keys to success

As a result of the event, a complete conclusions report will be published by September. All participants agreed that investment in flowing areas is key to the success of fighting wildlife crime:

  • Awareness: The lack of awareness is one of the main drivers of wildlife crimes. That is why in all interventions it has been emphasized that there is a need to raise the awareness and motivation – of the police investigators, of prosecutors, of judges, of the general public, to understand the complexity of wildlife or environmental crimes and their intersection with financial crimes, corruption and other crimes.
  • Cooperation: Exchanging knowledge and strengthening the cross-border cooperation, but also encouraging the interagency cooperation at a national level, is crucial to address the complexity of wildlife crimes and increase their detection and prevention. Especially today, we need to build more complex cases on wildlife crime requiring a more systemic approach and synergies between institutions and experts.
  • Training: Increasing the expertise and specialization along the law enforcement and judicial chain, with specialized units within the police and prosecution on regional, national and European level is paramount to increase understanding and detection of wildlife crimes. Trainings are key to replicate best practices like the anti-poison dog units, the satellite tagging, the rapid tests for poisonous substances, etc. to other types of wildlife crimes and to other regions.

Access the whole agenda here