MP calls for action to protect endangered animals

Nick Herbert in the Kazaringa National Park, India, in 2009
Nick Herbert in the Kazaringa National Park, India, in 2009
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Arundel and South Downs MP Nick Herbert has called for concerted action to protect elephants, tigers and rhinos and other animals from the criminal trade which threatens them.

The illegal trade in products such as ivory is driven by demand in the Far East, including for the use of animal parts in traditional ‘medicine’. Poaching of the animals has had a catastrophic effect on animal populations in Africa and India, with many species now endangered.

Opening a House of Commons debate on Thursday (6 February) the MP pointed out that international wildlife crime “is now the third most lucrative criminal activity after narcotics and human trafficking, worth a staggering $19 billion a year.”

The poaching of endangered species for parts such as horns, tusks and hides was, he said “not just bad news for the animals themselves: it also has a devastating impact on communities. It breaks down sustainable development opportunities such as animal-related tourism, and it leaves communities at the mercy of criminal gangs. The impact of poaching can be as damaging to fragile communities as disease.”

The MP also reminded the House of Commons that the ‘blood ivory’ trade was funding some of the world’s most serious criminal activity: “Al-Shabaab, whose attack on the Westgate shopping centre in Nairobi led to the death of 62 people, may have funded that operation with illegally obtained ivory sold on the black market to buy arms”.

The Commons debate followed a recent visit by Mr Herbert to the Born Free Foundation in Horsham. Founded 30 years ago by the actors Virginia McKenna OBE and Bill Travers, stars of the film Born Free, the Foundation is now run by their son Will Travers OBE.

Mr Herbert heard more about Born Free’s campaigns, including their determination not just to reduce demand for wildlife products like ivory, but to eradicate it.

The debate comes ahead of the London Conference on the Illegal Wildlife Trade, being hosted by the Government this week. The Conference brings together high-level delegations from across the world, including China, where demand for ivory is at the highest, to agree united action on tackling the illegal trade.

Mr Herbert will be attending a reception for delegates during the conference on Wednesday (12 February) that will be addressed by HRH The Duke of Cambridge.

And on Monday (10 February) Mr Herbert will be attending an ivory crush in Westminster organised by the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW).

The Westminster crush follows similar events in China, where 6 tonnes of ivory was destroyed last month, and Paris, where the French Government destroyed its 3 tonne stockpile last week.

Ivory crushes are designed to symbolise the eradication of the illegal trade, destroying the ivory rather than selling it on.

Mr Herbert took a strong stance on the illegal wildlife trade when he was Shadow Environment Secretary, calling for an end to ivory sales. In 2009 he visited India with the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) to see efforts to conserve rhinos and tigers in the Kaziranga National Park, and addressed the Wildlife Trust of India in Delhi where he pledged action to conserve wildlife.

Report and picture contributed by The Rt Hon Nick Herbert MP.