Frontline Wildlife Crime Unit could face axe in Government cuts

11 November 2015

World Animal Protection demand Ministers come clean on the future of the National Wildlife Crime Unit and the UK species it protects

The National Wildlife Crime Unit (NWCU) is a world-leading police unit dedicated to supporting wildlife crime investigations and is fundamental to providing and analysing national wildlife crime intelligence across the UK. Without them, a huge number of wildlife crime cases would not be successfully investigated or prosecuted.

But, with imminent funding cuts approaching, the future of the unit is under threat and in only four months their work could face complete collapse. Please help us secure its future.

Funding to tackle the illegal wildlife trade has already been allotted at £10 million over 2015/16 and 2017/18 . So it would be sensible to assume the department is aware of where this money is to be used. With the Government seemingly prioritising their fight against wildlife crime, the lack of financial commitment to the UK’s own national unit is causing deep confusion and concern to all those involved in protecting wildlife from crime, particularly when it only requires a fraction of their budget - £278,000.

Criminals could walk free

Wildlife crime is abundant across the UK and internationally with animals being harmed, persecuted and taken from the wild. Animals are hunted, smuggled, butchered for their body parts or kept alive in order to be sold on. The NWCU is absolutely critical in the fight against wildlife criminals. Without them, wild animals will be at a much greater risk of suffering cruelty.

Earlier this year in June, much attention was given to the successful six-week operation by Border Force and the NWCU resulting in the seizure of more than 300 animals, plants and derivative products in the UK.

The NWCU have also been fundamental in providing the intelligence and warrants leading to the seizure of more than 400 items in violation of CITES since April 2015. These seizures would not have been possible without the NWCU and so World Animal Protection have serious concerns about what will happen to this vital work if the unit folds beyond March 2016.

It is disappointing that the Government has left the future of the National Wildlife Crime Unit in jeopardy. They have missed opportunities to reassure the unit, police forces and the public that they take the matter of wildlife crime seriously and appreciate the important contribution the NWCU makes to tackling wildlife law enforcement both at home and internationally.

The Government has made much of their £10 million package to take concrete action to combat the illegal trade in wildlife. The public deserves to know whether the future of the UK’s own National Wildlife Crime Unit is part of that

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