Researcher: Netherlands a key link in poaching, illegal wildlife trade

White Rhino (Photo: Rexness/Wikimedia Commons)White Rhino (Photo: Rexness/Wikimedia Commons)

The Netherlands is an important link in the illegal trafficking of endangered wildlife, both in terms of market and of transit, according to research done by criminologist Daan van Uhm for which he will receive his doctorate on Tuesday, the Telegraaf reports.

Based on EU figures used for his research, Van Uhm concluded that the Netherlands accounts for as much as 14 percent of police and customs seizures of animals and animal products at EU level. He attributes this high seizure rate partly to effective enforcement in the country. "But also because of its central location and the presence of a large port and airport, we form an attractive transit countries." As an example: in 2012 customs at Schiphol airport seized more than 50 tusks coming from Africa with Asia as destination.

The market in the Netherlands is also large and diverse. "In addition to live animals - birds and reptiles - Chinese medicines which allegedly contains tiger bone also go over the counter here. Or take the skins of reptiles which are massively used in bags and watch bands for the fashion industry. Furthermore large parties of coral also enter our country." The market in all of Europe is also larger than expected.

According to Van Uhm, the trade in rare animals and animal products is very similar to the trade in arms and drugs. The horn of the nearly extinct rhinoceros is currently more expensive than cocaine or gold. There are parrots that sell for 100 thousand euros, or turtles for 25 thousand euros. "There is a lot of money in this illegal trade", according to him.

The growing illegal trade in animals and animal products has a massive impact. A number of species are in danger of extinction. Whole areas in Africa are terrorized by armed poachers looking for a rare bird or rhino.

Tackling this illegal trade is to a large extend dependent on European laws and regulations, according to broadcaster NOS. In April 2014 the then State Secretary of Economic Affairs, Sharon Dijksma stated that there are no plans to update the laws for tackling this type of crime. "The Netherlands believes that the current policy and regulatory framework in the EU is sufficient to counteract the illegal trade in wild animals and plants", she said. "New legislation is, in the opinion of the Netherlands, unnecessary and unwanted."

A spokesperson for the current State Secretary, Martijn van Dam, confirm that this is still the Dutch government's standpoint. But a growing of international meetings are being held to gain financial and political commitment in tackling this problem at a global level, such as the wildlife crime conference organized by the Netherlands between March 1st and 3rd. "The fight against wildlife crime has been a priority for several years. Economic Affairs made a total of 4 million euros available for a series of projects in the field of combating the whole wildlife chain. Foreign Affairs also made 2 million euros available for projects in this area." the spokesperson said to NOS.