More Trade, Less Crime

By John Barham

Relaxing trade controls on various species would reduce the power of organized crime syndicates, cut corruption, lessen violence, and raise incomes among subsistence farmers in delicate tropical regions. So says a new report entitled “Trading Nature,” from the World Wildlife Fund International as well as TRAFFIC International, based in the U.K.

The report argues that wildlife, fish, plants, and threatened tropical environments are more likely to be preserved if local populations have an economic stake in protecting them. Criminalization has “resulted in the majority of the trade being clandestine, difficult to police and effectively unmanaged,” it states.

Currently, the landmark Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) bans trade in thousands of threatened species. But powerful gangs smuggle animals and body parts to be used for medicine, as ingredients in regional dishes, and as trophies.

The volume of Illegal trafficking is hard to estimate, but the TRAFFIC report says that the legal international wildlife trade alone was worth nearly $300 billion in 2005.



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