2016 has been an important year for the ICOM NATHIST Wildlife Trafficking Group, culminating with the recent release of the White Paper. While this work is certainly to be celebrated, and sets us up well for continued efforts in 2017, it’s important to remember that wildlife crime is dramatically increasing in many parts of the globe.
Natural history museums can and do have an important role to play in curbing the illicit wildlife trade, through increasing public awareness, aiding and training border authorities in species identification and by advocating internationally. Here are a few recent stories that together highlight the diversity of wildlife crime across the planet. As this list shows – natural history museums are also vulnerable to wildlife crime, both from outside and within their institutions.
- Jaguar fangs have become one of the sought-after goods in the Chinese wildlife market, posing a severe threat to Bolivian jaguars. Some 337 jaguar fangs have been seized between 2014 and 2016.Birds, monkeys and turtles are also frequent victims of the trade. Miriam Telma Jemio writes for Mongbay, providing an extensive review of the illegal wildlife trade in Bolivia, that increase armadillos, macaws, big cats, monkeys and many others.
- Corrupt officials aid wildlife crime. Clean Malaysia reports that Malaysian officials have been implicated in aiding wildlife traffickers in a pervasive culture of bribery, money laundering and institutionalized complicity with illegal logging, poaching and wildlife trafficking.
- Tiger territories in the Vidarbha region of India’s Maharashtra Province are shrinking. Ashwin Aghor writing for CatchNews reports that the reduction in the tiger habitat is mostly due to encroachment and non-forestry activities. However, forest department officials are not ready to accept that there is any problem with the tiger territory and conservation.
- The role of the USA as a market for wildlife crime is highlighted in this report written by Micaela Samodelov and published by the African Wildlife Foundation. “A recent study found that 80 percent of Americans consider themselves animal lovers and support wildlife conservation measures. At the same time, however, it found 80 percent of Americans aren’t aware of the illegal wildlife trade in their own country.”
- French museum employee sold stolen fossils online. A French employee at the Orleans Museum of Natural History was found guilty and handed a three-month suspended sentence for stealing hundreds of stones and fossils dating back to the Neolithic era and selling them on eBay. Read the report from Phs.org.
- Grizzled giant squirrel new addition to illegal pet trade in India. The Times of India reports that the illegal pet trade has a new addition to the ‘seasonal favorite’ list which normally features species like the start tortoise (Geochelone elegans). A recent raid by the Wildlife Crime Control Bureau (WCCB), southern region, at Kolathu uncovered the market for this species of the grizzled giant squirrel (Ratufa macroura), a highland subspecies of the giant squirrel.
- Cameroonian ranger killed by wildlife poachers. Karl Mathiesen of the Guardian reports that a Cameroonian ranger was ambushed and killed by ivory poachers on Wednesday while patrolling to protect elephants and gorillas. Two to three rangers are being shot a week as poachers step up their predations on the world’s wildlife.