Wildlife crime like selling of wild animals in open markets is a threat to both environment and human health as it can increase the transmission of diseases that spread from animals to humans.
The findings were revealed in ‘World Wildlife Crime Report 2020’, produced by the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), reports UN News.
The report disclosed that zoonotic diseases represent up to 75 percent of all emerging infectious diseases and include the new coronavirus that caused the global pandemic.
Ghada Waly, executive director, UNODC, said “Transnational organized crime networks are reaping the profits of wildlife crime, but it is the poor who are paying the price.”
The report highlights the trafficking of wild species such as pangolins, which has been identified as a potential source of coronaviruses.
Experts from the World Health Organization (WHO) are on their way to China, in efforts to determine the animal source of COVID-19.
Seizures of pangolin scales increased tenfold between 2014 and 2018, making them most trafficked wild mammals in the world.
In the last decade, about 6,000 species were seized, which include mammals but also reptiles, corals, birds and fish.
No single country was identified as the source of more than 9 percent of the total number of seized shipments, while suspected traffickers represented roughly 150 nationalities, underscoring the global nature of these crimes.
The UNODC report also analyzed the markets for illicit rosewood, ivory, rhino horn, pangolin scales, live reptiles, big cats and the European eel.
According to the report, trends show demand for African ivory and rhino horn is in decline, indicating that the market for them is smaller than previously suggested.
It is estimated that these two items generated more than $600 million annually between 2016 and 2018, it said.
Meanwhile, demand for tropical hardwood timber has risen significantly over the past two decades. Illegal African rosewood has even entered legitimate supply chains for the furniture trade.
At the same time, seizures of tiger products have also been on the rise, alongside traffickers’ interest in other big cat parts that can serve as substitutes.
Wildlife trade has also gone digital, with traffickers selling live reptiles and tiger bone products, among other products, through online platforms and encrypted messaging apps.
UNODC believes stopping wildlife crime is critical to protecting biodiversity and the rule of law, but also for preventing future public health emergencies.
The report underscored the need for stronger criminal justice systems and improved international cooperation and cross-border investigations, among other measures.
Ms Waly, the UN agency’s chief, said “To protect people and planet in line with the Sustainable Development Goals, and to build back better from the COVID-19 crisis, we cannot afford to ignore wildlife crime.”
She also said that “The 2020 World Wildlife Crime Report can help to keep this threat high on the international agenda and increase support for governments to adopt the necessary legislation, and develop the inter-agency coordination and capacities needed to tackle wildlife crime offences.”