WWF România publishes its national report on wildlife crime
More than 1200 specimens were affected by this criminal activity, only among protected species. The figure increases significantly when crimes involving unprotected species are taken into account.
WWF Romania’s report provides an overview of wildlife crime on a national level, through an assessment of crimes and contraventions, but also of the institutional challenges faced by the authorities with responsibilities in the field, from the discovery of the crime to final court decisions, where applicable.
Wildlife crime, including poaching, wildlife trafficking or illegal poisoning, causes a significant reduction in biodiversity and can lead to the extinction of animal and plant species in Europe and beyond.
According to Cristina Munteanu, coordinator and co-author of the report:
“WWF Romania’s national report highlights the fact that sanctions for wildlife crime are far from discouraging. Crime against wild species is not a minor issue, because it intervenes in an increasingly fragile balance that, once destroyed, will profoundly affect our opportunities for development but also our economic and social security. In Romania, but also in other European countries, the extent of the phenomenon and the way in which it is treated by the judiciary were not known”.
Collected data covers the period 2015-2020 and focuses mainly on poaching activities, illegal killing for sport, control of predators/pests and retaliation, illegal capture, illegal egg collection, selling, trapping and non-selective killing of protected species. Activities such as illegal killing of unprotected species by law and illegal fishing of an unprotected species during the period of prohibition or without a fishing permit have also been considered.
Species most affected by wildlife crime in Romania
According to the report, regarding the protected species, 1281 specimens were involved in the criminal activity, during the mentioned period, the most affected being: brown bear, weatherfish, sea fox, sterlet, dolphins and the picked dogfish. Out of a total of 18 cases that went to court, in 16 cases the court handed down convictions, and in 2 cases the defendants were acquitted.
Regarding contraventions, 7 cases were identified, with a total of 5 affected species: agave, leopard, giraffe, antelope. And specimens from 5 families and a genus: chameleon, sturgeon, elephant, parrot, bear and ebony.
However, there were many more cases of crime that affected unprotected species. The project database recorded 606 cases that affected species such as wild boar, roe deer, hares, but also many species of fish, not specified in criminal case documents.
544 convictions have been handed down, 13 acquittals, 17 trials are still pending, 11 cases in which the prison sentence has been replaced by a fine, in one case the court has declined jurisdiction and in 20 cases there is no information on the status of the files.
Many acts remain unpunished despite being illegal and dangerous
Even if an accurate estimate of wildlife crime was not possible, the number of cases that did not reach the court is very high: about 7,200, in 82.4% of the prosecutor’s offices in Romania.
WWF Romania’s report reveals that the files for which a solution of filing or waiving the criminal investigation has been given are 10 times more than those sent to court.
One cause of this situation is the fact that certain illegal activities and / or acts are treated briefly, disparately and unevenly, in various normative acts, which makes it difficult to correctly apply the provisions and, consequently, leads to lack of sanction or an improper sanction of the subjects involved in committing the illegal acts.
Recommendations to better tackling wildlife crime in Romania
- Regional and national databases and efficient information exchange between institutions
- Improving the legal framework applicable to: poaching, crime reporting, trafficking protected wild species
- Involvement of national authorities in ensuring compliance and enforcement of the law, as well as in securing funding for proposed measures to reduce/cover the risk of human-animal conflict
- Effective coordination between state institutions but also between relevant local authorities and international institutions, in order to combat the involvement of organized criminal groups in wildlife crime
- Actions to raise awareness and inform the population
Data and information sources used in the report were represented by the databases of judicial institutions (courts, tribunals and courts of appeal), of Romanian prosecutor’s offices, institutions authorized to apply contraventions for environmental crime and also semi-structured interviews.
For the most part, the institutions were cooperative and provided information. However, 30% of the judicial institutions and 17.6% of the prosecutor’s offices did not provide data.