High profit and low risk nature of environmental crime matched by low funds and uncertain priority given to fighting it

June 7, 2016

The high-profit, low-risk nature of environmental crime is matched by the low funds and uncertain priorities given to fighting it by many decision-takers.

“It is a spiralling problem,” said Davyth Stewart an Interpol criminal intelligence officer. “Law enforcement is over-stretched. The profits made from these crimes are up to 10,000 times higher than the investments to combat them. There’s a very similar disparity between the profits made by organised crime gangs and the resources available to law enforcement and prosecutors.”

More investment, support and capacity building was needed to help officers who were increasingly being met by armed and violent offenders, he added.

Crimes with a lesser financial value but more immediate impact, such as firearms trafficking, routinely benefit from a greater security focus when environmental crime can have consequences just as profound, even if they are felt further down the line.

The destruction of ecosystems can spark violence and unrest as well as social conflicts, mass migrations and the disruption of human habitats and food chains.

Ibrahim Thiaw, Unep’s deputy director said: “Too often, criminals target poor communities that simply can’t afford to feed their families and bring them into the criminal chain. We need to snap this and create programmes that help people earn a living by protecting, conserving and sustaining the environment through either ecotourism or agriculture.”

Unep has recruited celebrities including Gisele Bündchen, Yaya Touré and Neymar Jr to promote a Wild for Life campaign which aims to raise consciousness about the issue and mobilise public support.

In an opinion piece for the Guardian, Bundchen writes: “Environmental awareness is growing all over the world. But so is wildlife crime, and the struggle between those forces seeking to preserve Earth’s rich biodiversity and those trying to turn it into illicit profits is just getting started.”