Organized Crime Enters Wildlife Smuggling

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NEW YORK, Aug. 2 (UPI) — Organized crime is threatening wildlife by participating in increasingly sophisticated illegal trading in wildlife parts, a U.S. study says.

With little help from antiquated enforcement measures, some of the world’s most beloved species, including rhinos, tigers and elephants, are being decimated on a scale never before seen, a paper by Wildlife Conservation Society conservationist Elizabeth Bennett says.

Much of the illicit trade is driven by wealthy East Asian markets that have a seemingly insatiable appetite for wildlife parts, the study published in the journal Oryx said.

Organized crime syndicates using sophisticated poaching and smuggling operations have penetrated even previously secure wildlife populations, Bennett said.

“We are failing to conserve some of the world’s most beloved and charismatic species,” she said. “We are rapidly losing big, spectacular animals to an entirely new type of trade driven by criminalized syndicates.

“When these criminal networks wipe out wildlife, conservation loses, and local people lose the wildlife on which their livelihoods often depend.

“We have taken our eye off the ball. Enforcement is critical: old fashioned in concept but needing increasingly advanced methods to challenge the ever-more sophisticated methods of smuggling.”

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