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Wildlife crimes are a significant threat to the nature and people

A new WWF report shows that wildlife crime in Croatia most often affects birds such as European goldfinch, large carnivores and protected marine species.

Crimes against nature and the environment are the fourth most lucrative activity of organized crime in the world, after human, drugs and weapon trafficking. The cost of crimes against nature and the environment sum up to $258 billion a year, cause incalculable damage to our planet, significantly reduce biodiversity and can lead to the complete extinction of some plant and animal species. Despite that, the awareness of their seriousness is low and sentences for committing such crimes are mild.

WWF launched a national report which provides insights into the most common wildlife crimes in Croatia, the animal species that are most affected and recommendations for reducing and discouraging such crimes in order to raise public awareness and reduce the number of wildlife crimes through effective and successful prosecution.

The report states that the most common types of wildlife offenses in Croatia are illegal hunting and fishing, killing of protected species, illegal trade and smuggling, illegal catching or capturing and possession. Birds are some of the most threatened species by wildlife crimes in the Mediterranean. They are especially affected by hunting tourism and selling of killed specimens, sport and recreation and trophy hunting. Additionally, songbirds are often held in captivity. The most common bird threatened by wildlife crimes on a national level is goldfinch - a songbird hunted for selling and possession. Goldfinches are sold also to northern Italy and Malta where they are considered and consumed as a delicacy. Besides birds, poaching threatens large carnivores - wolf, bear and lynx that are often victims of trophy hunting and are killed in conflicts with locals.

“Croatia has a great variety of plant and animal species in different ecosystems, as well as many endemic species. We also have about 3 thousand endangered species, threatened by various illegal activities. The seriousness of wildlife crimes is recognized on a global and European level which resulted in several initiatives that aim to reduce the number of committed wildlife crimes, but we do need an organized approach to wildlife crime prosecution on a national level”, said Snježana Malić Limari from WWF Adria.

Besides poaching, other great threats to protected wildlife species are poisoning and illegal trade. Poisoning most often affects birds of prey that die after eating a poisoned carcass placed as bait for large carnivores. Some of the most affected birds are golden eagle and griffon vulture. In fact, poisoning is the main reason for vulture morality in Croatia.

Illegal trade and smuggling threatens many various species in Croatia - from songbirds such as goldfinch, tortoises and turtles to the various marine organisms. Some of the most frequently smuggled marine species are sea cucumbers, which are considered a delicacy on Asian market, date shells that can be found in our national restaurants, almost extinct noble pen shells and giant tun.

“Recently a case of illegal extraction of sea cucumbers from the sea ended up in Croatian media. Luckily, the perpetrators were discovered, but it is not always the case. Significant number of cases end up with undiscovered perpetrators and without sentences or getting to the public space. In order to change that we need to establish better coordination and cooperation between relevant institutions and authorities. It is also important to raise public awareness about the real impact of wildlife crimes on nature and us, people. A higher number of reported cases can lead to more convictions and consequently discourage committing such crimes.This report is a good start for a more systematic observation of wildlife crimes in Croatia and is the basis for establishing cooperation between institutions and experts in the field”, concludes Malić-Limari.

This national report is part of the LIFE SWiPE project (Successful Wildlife Crime Prosecution in Europe), that aims to discourage, and ultimately reduce the number of wildlife crimes through better enforcement of EU environmental regulations and more successfully prosecuted crimes.

Full report is available here in Croatian and English language.
Find out more about the LIFE SWiPE project here.
 
Wildlife Crimes Are Wild Crimes Against Life