Polish authorities exchange knowledge to boost efforts against wildlife crimes

On 11-13 April 2023, several dozen representatives of law enforcement agencies and the judiciary attended a training workshop organized at the Łódź Zoo by WWF Poland and the National School of Judiciary and Public Prosecution (NSJPP) as part of the LIFE SWiPE project. As demonstrated by WWF Poland’s report on wildlife crime, the exchange of knowledge and the cooperation between experts in various fields is crucial in fighting these crimes.

In order to successfully combat wildlife crime, many people and organizations, especially the police, tax and customs services, prosecutors, courts and environmental protection experts, have to work together on both the national and international level. Training sessions like the one at the Łódź Zoo serve to facilitate knowledge exchange and the cooperation between different services and specialists.

“Our workshops included a wide range of experts, because successful prosecution of wildlife crime requires extensive knowledge. This type of criminal activity pervades many aspects of social and economic life, and the perpetrators are coming up with increasingly elaborate methods. The rate of species extinction in Poland and around the world urges us to take this problem seriously”, explained Rafał Rzepkowski, species protection specialist at WWF Poland.

We believe that by creating a platform allowing representatives of tax and customs services, police forces, prosecutor’s offices and the judiciary to share knowledge and experiences and, above all, to get to know each other, we will bring about a more effective prosecution of criminals who destroy nature, which is our common good”, he added.  

Exchanging knowledge to keep up with wildlife criminals

The expert speakers discussed a range of topics, including practical aspects of operations, presentation of CITES specimens and derivatives, cooperation between specialists from various fields, and types of wildlife crimes. Attendees also had the opportunity to participate in a number of practical activities held around the zoo, introducing them to the identification of CITES specimens and the characteristics of endangered species, among others.

Among the speakers were representatives from the Tax and Customs Service, the Economic Crime Unit of the National Police Headquarters, the Regional Police Headquarters in Poznań, the Regional Police Headquarters in Opole, the National School of Judiciary and Public Prosecution, and the Public Prosecutor’s Office.

“The workshop, co-organized by the National School of Judiciary and Public Prosecution, was a chance for experts from different areas of specialization to share valuable experiences, but more importantly to present in greater detail the criminal law side of combating wildlife crime. Experience and knowledge gained during the workshops and discussions should enhance the efficacy of investigations and prosecutions of these crimes, also those involving a transboundary element”, said judge Dr Janusz Konecki of the National School of Judiciary and Public Prosecution, who supervises the agreement between WWF Poland and NSJPP.

High media interest about the workshop.

“The Łódź Zoo Orientarium actively cooperates with WWF Poland. Our shared goal is educating the public about nature conservation, so we were happy to help organize the workshop on wildlife crime. Poaching, trafficking, and illegal trade in animal body parts are still one of the biggest threats to the survival of the vanishing wild species. That’s why it is important to develop and implement effective methods to fight these crimes,said Dr Magdalena Janiszewska, the Łódź Zoo Management Board’s representative for the cooperation with non-governmental organizations.

As wildlife crime is on the rise, training is essential

In the last year, the West Pomeranian Nature Association, supported by WWF Poland, found three poached lynxes, including a female that still had three kittens under her care. The death of 7 European bison during the same period is also thought to be linked to poaching – and this is the official figure for just one province (more about it here: https://www.wwf.pl/zubry-znikaja-z-polnocno-zachodniej-polski.) The scale of the problem is enormous and involves many protected species throughout the country.

However, wildlife crime extends beyond poaching. Trafficking, environmental pollution, and illegal trade in endangered species and derivatives also have major environmental and social impacts. In 2021 alone, the officers of the Tax and Customs Service seized more than 20.000 specimens – almost as many as in 2020.