Wildlife crime in Ukraine

WWF Ukraine presents the first complex study to describe the overall picture of wildlife offences in Ukraine over the period 2015-2020. The information has been collected from official sources, and publicly available data sets, through public information requests, questionnaires, and communication with law enforcement and conservation experts.

The report aims to summarize and compile available information on criminal and administrative offences related to wildlife (where protected species were subjects of attack) to gather information and identify national gaps in legislation, governance and in organizational arrangements, main obstacles to their effective prevention, detection, investigation and prosecution.

Wildlife trafficking in Ukraine

A total of 63 cases of administrative offences for customs rules violation were identified (cases of illegal trafficking of fauna and/or flora objects of species listed in CITES annexes and/or the Red Book of Ukraine across the customs border of Ukraine), where illegal actions were qualified under the articles of the Customs Code of Ukraine.

Wildlife crimes, a transboundary issue

The main destinations of illegal transportation across the customs border of Ukraine identified were:

  • Ukraine to Jordan: alive birds (goldfinches, whistlers, bullfinches, parrots, pigeons, etc.)
  • Ukraine to Dubai (UAE): bear cubs, birds (goldfinches, falcons, parrots etc)
  • Lebanon to Ukraine: sturgeons (caviar)
  • Ukraine to Turkey: cheetah kitten
  • Ukraine to Lebanon: alive birds (goldfinches etc.)
  • Poland to Ukraine: larvae of butterflies, python snakes, elvers (European eels)
  • Ukraine to Italy via Hungary: snails, wasps, bullfinches.
  • Ukraine to Russian federation: bear skins.

Main obstacles to tackling wildlife crime in Ukraine:

  • Wildlife crime remains in low priority. The profile of ecocrimes has raised although the priority is still low, considering the context of massive crimes against humanity and rules of war violations.
  • The lack of storage and preservation facilities for the collected evidence related to protected species, as well as rescue & recovery centres, prevents authorities from seizing animals and keeping them while the investigation proceeds, and even from starting the investigations at all.
  • There is a strong need to improve the Ukrainian legislation:
    • Include trafficking of CITES species and those included in the Ukrainian Red Book in article 201 “Trafficking” of the Criminal Code of Ukraine.
    • Extend time limits for imposing an administrative penalty for wildlife-related offences to up to 6-12 months (at least) by amending the Administrative Code of Ukraine.
    • Fully transpose into national law the agreements of the CITES convention, which entered into force in Ukraine in 2000.
    • Include the Environmental Crime Directive (Directive 2008/99/EC, and its future new proposal when adopted) on the list of EU legislative acts in the framework of the Accession Agreement EU-Ukraine (there is no relevant road map plan for it)
  • Incorrect pre-trial materials: the absence or incorrect required documents lead to a low probability of prosecution & judicial perspective.
  • Absence of databases on wildlife crime offences which lead to lack of monitoring. Available information is incomplete and largely fragmented between multiple states. Ukraine lacks of proper coordination, exchange of data, and experience on an ongoing basis in the fight against environmental/wildlife offences between different authorities.
  • Lack of judges’ specialization, pre-trial investigation bodies, and special police units on wildlife crime.
  • Low sentences and fines for the offenders. Most wildlife offences were qualified as administrative cases. According to the Office of the Prosecutor General, from the total number of reported criminal offences for 2015-2020, the share of criminal environmental offences was less than 1% (on average only 0.72 % per year). Therefore, the share of criminal wildlife offences within the total of environmental crimes is even smaller (exact data on this are unavailable)

Next steps against wildlife offences in Ukraine

WWF-Ukraine will organize specialized pieces of training for judges, prosecutors and investigators in wildlife crime detection and prevention. The organization is grateful for the cooperation and support we have received from our partners so far.