29% of the 82,954 species which are listed on the IUCN Red List are threatened with extinction. This figure was announced at the IUCN World Conservation Congress which took place in Hawai’i from the 1st to the 10th of September 2016. If habitat loss and climate change partly explain the alarming extinction rate, disturbance, illegal taking and illegal killing now represent a significant and growing pressure on wild species of fauna and flora. Environmental crime has become the fourth largest crime at the global level. Illegal wildlife trade itself is today worth an estimated USD 7 to 23 billion per year, which represents critical loss of revenue for both local populations and governments. ELC is tackling this problem by procuring global commitments while supporting action on the ground.
Since its establishment in 1970, the IUCN Environmental Law Centre has provided practitioners around the world with legal support to help address poaching and illegal wildlife trade. This year, ELC has developed a new set of resources to serve this community.
WILDLEX is a free database gathering court decisions, relevant legislation, literature and training materials related to wildlife law. It aims to give researchers, lawyers and all interested individuals greater access to legal resources that will help them in their work. The court decision database currently contains cases from Tanzania, and IUCN is working with partners to expand it to other countries in the region and around the globe.
Over the past year, IUCN has been working with judges, magistrates, prosecutors and professors in Tanzania to support strengthening of judicial responses to wildlife crime in that country. With researchers from the University of Dar es Salaam, IUCN conducted a study of over 250 court decisions collected over six months from around Tanzania. The study highlights that although Tanzania adopted strong legislation with stiff penalties for wildlife offenders, prosecutors, magistrates and judges face many challenges in handling wildlife cases, resulting in case dismissal, application of inappropriate penalties, and 77% of appealed convictions being overturned by the appellate court. This adds to the heavy burden on the courts, and undermines the deterrent effect of the law.
To help address these challenges, ELC partnered with the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ), the wildlife trade monitoring network (TRAFFIC), the African Wildlife Foundation (AWF), and the Tanzanian Judiciary to deliver trainings to Tanzanian investigators, prosecutors, magistrates and judges on wildlife law, and how to improve prosecution and adjudication of wildlife crime. These workshops have engaged over 100 participants, and addressed issues ranging from incorporation of economic and financial offences in cases of wildlife crime to use of sniffer dogs in law enforcement.
Training materials on wildlife law used during these workshops are freely available on WILDLEX, for use by university professors and other trainers engaged in capacity building related to wildlife. The IUCN Environmental Law Centre envisions replication of this project in other East African Community countries and at a largest scale, with the view to promote a harmonized and integrated approach of wildlife crime at the regional and global levels.