IFAW: UK Government fails to commit to long-term support for the National Wildlife Crime Unit

The International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) is disappointed that the UK Government has failed to commit long term support for the National Wildlife Crime Unit, a highly skilled policing unit, which is spearheading the UK’s fight against wildlife crime.

This news comes just after an international convention, CITES*, brought together over 170 countries to discuss the future of endangered animals such as elephants, tigers, rhinos and the impacts of wildlife crime.

Long term funding for the NWCU was a key recommendation of the Environment Audit Committee (EAC) report on wildlife crime, which was published last year.  The report contained a number of recommendations on better law enforcement to protect animals from illegal trade and other wildlife crimes.

The lack of long-term financial support and job security negatively impacts on the Unit’s work and detracts its focus from the fight against wildlife crime.

Further disappointment came from the Government’s unwillingness to require police to submit data on wildlife crimes to the NWCU. IFAW recognises that the NWCU is doing an excellent job in trying to gather information on the scale of wildlife crime in the UK which is an extremely difficult and time consuming task as forces are under no obligation to record or share this information. This lack of action by the Government means that the UK will continue to have an incomplete picture of the scale of wildlife crime.

In addition, IFAW is frustrated that the Government has not opted to improve the level of knowledge and understanding of wildlife crime amongst the Crown Prosecution Service. Whilst some members of the CPS do an exemplary job, the EAC investigation exposed concerns about a lack of understanding amongst prosecutors of wildlife crime, which is often complex and requires specialist knowledge. This lack of understanding runs the risk of wildlife criminals slipping through the net of our judicial system.

However IFAW does welcome the Government’s commitment to combating wildlife crime in the international arena. It praises its work to encourage other governments to consider the impact of their actions and choose to protect elephants, rhinos and tigers. This includes funding of the African Elephant Fund, supporting the Global Tiger Initiative and taking part in INTERPOL’s Operation Predator amongst others.

Another positive response is that the Government ‘hopes that police commissioners will respond to concerns raised by their electorates asking them to prioritise the enforcement of wildlife crime’.

Robbie Marsland, UK Director of IFAW, said: “IFAW is bitterly disappointed that the UK Government has not mirrored the firm stance and recommendations of the Committee to tackle wildlife crime in the UK.

“Following the positive discussions at CITES  to protect wildlife around the world, the UK Government has refused to echo this sentiment by failing to support vital wildlife crime law enforcement in the UK. The NWCU needs long-term support to continue its vital work so as nation of animal lovers, this is a real blow.”

IFAW works to tackle wildlife crime in the UK by campaigning for better enforcement of animal protection laws, lobbying key opinion formers for tougher sentencing and more robust legislation, as well as training enforcement officers and raising consumer awareness. As part of this work, IFAW was delighted to have been asked to input into the EAC inquiry and gave written evidence and two accounts of oral evidence to the Committee.


* CITES – Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species recently met for the 16th Conference of the Parties (CoP) in Bangkok.

Notes to Editors:

For more information, photos or to arrange interviews please contact Amanda Gent in the IFAW UK Press Office on +44 (0)20 7587 6725, email agent@ifaw.org or Clare Sterling on +44 (0)20 7587 6708, mobile +44 (0)7917 507717 or email csterling@ifaw.org. Alternatively please visit www.ifaw.org