A side event was held at the General Meeting of the United Nations yesterday. It was held jointly by the Gabon and Germany to highlight wildlife crime and trade. At the meeting the UK Foreign Secretary, William Hague, committed the UK to doing everything it could to combat wildlife crime – so will the coalition finally commit to a long-term funding strategy for the nation’s wildlife crime unit or will it continue with an annual round of uncertainty for the unit.
Earlier this year the government and in particular the Home Office had to be dragged kicking and screaming to funding the National Wildlife Crime Unit for just over a year. The Home Office waiting until the final days before confirming that it would provide its share of £160,00 to fund the 10 man unit until May 2014.
It’s time for wildlife crime officers in the UK to be given long-term funding and security with a 10 year budget to allow them to put in place long-term investigations. The UK may not be the biggest destination market for wildlife products but it is a major transit route and hub for wildlife criminals.
At a time when wildlife crime is attracting major criminal gang and terrorist organisations is it right that in the UK in 2012 the Wildlife Crime Unit of the Metropolitan Police had to rely on a £100,000 charity donation from the World Society for the Protection of Animals to keep going? Is it right that in 2011 the funding situation for the National Wildlife Crime Unit was so precarious that the millionaire founder of Lush Cosmetics was in negotiation with the unit to privately fund its continued existence if public money dried up?
Wildlife crime is a serious issue that does not just impact on the enjoyment of visiting a nature reserve to watch the birds of prey or badgers, it also impacts of the safety and security of people as it funds terrorist activities across the world.
William Hague’s speech made all the right noises but talk is cheap and real commitment costs money.
Hague announced yesterday that the UK will be hosting a high delegation conference in London on 12th and 13th February next year to look at the issues surrounding international wildlife crime. It would be a good opportunity for the government to announce a long-term funding strategy for the National Wildlife Crime Unit. As their funding comes to an end in May 2014 do we really want to go through all the protests and petitions that was undertaken earlier this year in order to protect a valuable policing resource?