Wildlife trafficking is one of the most profitable forms of organised crime and the Commission have made clear that it is a priority issue for the European Union. Wildlife trafficking is defined as the illegal trade of wild animals and plants, their parts and derived products. This trade severely harms biodiversity, leading to the decline and potential extinction of some species due to the unsustainable extraction of species from the wild.
The Intergroup first heard from Leonhard Maier, Team leader for the CITES & wildlife trade regulation at DG ENV, European Commission, who gave a presentation on the challenges and opportunities the evaluation and revision of the Wildlife Action Plan can offer. Mr Maier noted that animal welfare is not an official objective of the Action Plan, however there is scope in the revision of the Action Plan for new initiatives and for supporting the implementation of existing legislation.
This was then followed by a presentation from Ilaria Di Silvestre, Head of EU Policy and Campaigns at IFAW concerning the key issues to include in the renewed EU Action Plan. She took the Intergourp through the ten key calls for a revised action plan, which will be submitted by a number of NGOs to the Commission in a position paper. These ten key calls are to Address weaknesses in the existing legislation; close the loopholes in the EU Wildlife Trade Regulation; reduce demand for wildlife; adopt a precautionary approach; tackle wildlife cyber crime; combat ivory trade; restrict trophy hunting imports; align EU policies; identify and provide adequate care for seized wildlife animals; and to involve civil society and the private sector.
Both presentations induced a number of burning questions from MEPs, for instance Manuela Ripa (MEP, the Greens) put it to Mr Maier whether the Commission could clarify when the long overdue restrictions on EU Ivory trade will be adopted. Most of the new provisions are not legally binding and she questioned whether the Commission would implement a clear way of monitoring this.
Martin Hojsik (MEP, Renew) wanted to know what is being done about the tigers that are being bred and harvested in the EU and whether the Digital Services Act could act as a tool to better regulate the online trade of illegal wildlife. Mr Maier pointed out that the link to the Digital Services Act is on the agenda of the CITES management authorities. As for tigers, the Commission is having an ongoing discussion with Member States on how best to tackle this, however he noted that, in his opinion, Member States are a bit reluctant to multiply the number of species specific guidance documents in place.
Other questions raised, for example by Jytte Guteland (MEP, S&D) and Michal Weizik (MEP, EPP) focused on rescue centers and a positive list for exotic pets. President of the Intergroup, Anja Hazekam (MEP, the Left), concluded the session highlighting the most popular topics to come from the discussion - Ivory trade, internet trade, hidden tiger trade and the need for the Commission to come up with a positive list for pets.
The next Intergroup session will be held on the 16th December and will concern the structural breaches of Regulation 1/2005 on the transportation of unweaned calves, and will also elect or appoint the new president of the Animal Welfare Intergroup.