International cooperation against illegal wildlife trade

28.12.2015

Everybody has heard about the illegal trade of ivory in Africa, where hundreds of elephants are hunted down and killed every year for their tusks that reach shocking prices in the black market. Most people have also heard about the poaching of rhinos for their horns, tigers for their bones, crocodiles for their skins, or sharks for their fins. It always seems to happen in far away countries, exotic animals always being the target. What most people are not aware of is that illegal trade of wildlife also happens in Europe, and yes, in Greece and Bulgaria too! Poachers take different species of tortoises for pet trade for instance, or rare species of falcons and other birds of prey, highly appreciated for falconry, why, they will even take the extremely endangered Egyptian vulture eggs for egg collectors!

The main advantage the smugglers have in the Balkans countries is precisely that, the lack of awareness, not only of the general public, but also of the competent authorities. For this reason, the LIFE+ project “The Return of the Neophron” has set to reverse in some degree this situation and increase the level of awareness. For this, several seminars on the problem and extent of illegal wildlife trade have taken place in the most important and relevant Customs Offices in Greece and Bulgaria. Some of these seminars where implemented in collaboration with the UK Border Force, meaning experts of this country have come to share their experience and knowledge on the matter. Aiming to take this training a step further, the LIFE project organized a training trip to the UK in November. During this trip, a selected Customs Officer from the Athens Airport Customs travelled for a week to the UK, having the opportunity to participate in the 27th UK Wildlife Crime Enforcers Conference, but also to meet, discuss and see in action the National Wildlife Crime Unit in Livingstone, Scotland, the London’s Metropolitan Police and the Heathrow Airport Customs CITES team.

The trip was considered a success by both parts. The knowledge and expertise gained during this trip will be shared among the rest of Customs officers in the Athens Airport Customs, one of Greece’s main international trade transport hubs. It has also opened the doors to a more fluent international collaboration between authorities from different countries. Hopefully, initiatives like this one, combined with the training and informative seminars will help to bring to the attention of all national authorities involved of the huge problem of illegal trafficking of wildlife, making it more difficult for the criminals to practice it in our countries.

We would like to sincerely thank both RSPB and BSPB for making this trip possible. We would also like to thank all the UK authorities who kindly shared their time and experience. Finally, we would like to thank the Athens Airport Customs for collaborating in this trip, thus acknowledging the importance of this problem and committing to fight against it.

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Where is B14?

Where is B14?

The breeding performance of the Egyptian Vulture population in Bulgaria is among the highest in Europe

The breeding performance of the Egyptian Vulture population in Bulgaria is among the highest in Europe