A recent international news report declared how Interpol, the International Criminal Police Organisation, is demanding a crackdown on 'serious and organised eco-crime’. They think tougher enforcement and intelligence input are needed to tackle the grave situation. We agree. But first, can someone define ‘eco-crime’ for us, please?
Here are some horrifying stories from the world of endangered animal species
400 tortoises seized at Dhaka airport
Customs officials in Bangladesh recently seized more than 400 tortoises which they found in suitcases bound for Thailand, as reported by British Broadcasting Corporation. The tortoises they found, which included three endangered species, have an estimated value of US $35,000 on the black market. Rare tortoises are wanted as pets or for use in oriental medicines.
Elephant masaccare in Cameroon
So you must have read how soldiers in Cameroon are losing the battle to save the last elephants in a remote frontier park from prowling horsemen, believed to be hailing from Sudan. At least half of the park’s 400 elephants have been killed.
Rhino horn more expensive than gold
Did you know more than 500 rhinos have been killed over the past 18 months in South Africa? And fewer than 50 rhinoceros horns have been recovered. Rhinoceros horn is now more valuable than gold and the ‘horn craze’ is offering payoffs bigger than those of other exotic wildlife products such as tiger bone paste. According to industry experts, the crushed powder from the horn fetches up to US $55,000 per kilogram in Asia.
Illegal export of Chimpanzees to China
The chimpanzee population of Guinea is decreasing. In the past three years 130 were illegally exported to China with 69 reportedly in 2010 alone.
All this prodded us to think: What is eco-crime? What defines it? According to a report by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), illegal logging accounts for 15-30 per cent of timber globally. Deforestation, largely of tropical rainforests, is responsible for an estimated 17 per cent of all man-made emissions of greenhouse gases, and 50 per cent more than that from ships, aviation and land-transport combined. Today, only 10 per cent of primary forest cover remains.
It is all fine for the world and its leaders to sit up and take action for protecting the soon-to-be-extinct wild life species. But what about digging up of coastal zones in search of fuel? And land grabbing in the name of development? Yes. It is time we come up with the right definition. And find the right solution.