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Besides driving many endangered species towards extinction, wildlife trafficking strengthens criminal networks, undermines national security, and poses increasing risks to global health, according to the report.

Jim Leape, Director General of WWF-International said: Wildlife crime has escalated alarmingly in the past decade. It is driven by global crime syndicates, and so we need a concentrated global response.

"It is communities, often the world's poorest, that lose the most from this illicit trade, while criminal gangs and corrupt officials profit. Frontline rangers are losing their lives and families that depend on natural resources are losing their livelihoods," Leape said.

Numerous interviews with governments and international organisations, detailed in the report, suggest that the involvement of organised criminal syndicates and rebel groups in wildlife crimes is increasing. Yet many interviewees stressed that illegal wildlife trade is not treated as a transnational crime and justice issue by governments. Heather Sohl, species expert for WWF-UK said:

"We cannot fight this battle alone. This report goes to show that this is no longer just an environmental concern - it needs organisations and government departments to work together to find solutions that meet the complex challenges presented by the growing trade in threatened wildlife."
This year has seen the highest levels of rhino poaching in South Africa since records began - a shocking 588 were poached by 27 November 2012, compared to only 13 in 2007 when the poaching began to escalate dramatically. In the UK, there have been an increasing number of reports of rhino horn thefts from national museums; [1] likely due to the fact that the black market value of rhino horn has soared.
"The demand for illegal wildlife products has risen in step with economic growth in consumer countries, and with the 'easy money' and high profits to be made from trafficking, organised criminals have seized the opportunity to profit," said Steven Broad, Executive Director of TRAFFIC, the wildlife trade monitoring network.

WWF hopes that ambassadors to the UN missions briefing today in New York will raise the wildlife trafficking issue with their governments, in order for it to be addressed as a matter of urgency. Government officials in this report say that a systematic approach is needed to fight illicit wildlife trafficking including greater resourcing, inter-ministerial cooperation, and the use of modern intelligence-led investigative techniques to identify and prosecute wildlife criminals.

-ENDS-

Notes to Editors:
[1] See recent BBC news story: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-norfolk-20582137
[2] The report comes less than a month after US Secretary Hillary Clinton spoke of the global threat caused by wildlife crime as part of her ground-breaking keynote speech at the US State Department Partnership Meeting on Wildlife Trafficking. She said: "this is a global challenge that spans continents and crosses oceans, and we need to address it with partnerships that are as robust and far-reaching as the criminal networks we seek to dismantle." http://www.wwf.org.uk/wwf_articles.cfm?unewsid=6307

James Morgan high resolution photographs:
https://photos.panda.org/gpn/external?albumId=4342

Media broll:
http://gvn.panda.org/pages/search.php?search=%21collection2077&k=63b6964538

Media teleconference
Representatives from WWF, TRAFFIC, CITES and Gabon Parcs (invited) will hold a telephone briefing for journalists on Thursday, December 6 at 09:30 Central European Time (08:30 GMT). Use call-in number +41 58 262 0722 and access code 434301 or dial a local access number. Experts are available in English, French, Spanish, German and Dutch languages.

For further information or to schedule an interview, please contact:
Cara Clancy | Media Officer, WWF-UK
T: 01483 412 305 | E: cclancy@wwf.org.uk | M: 07917086494
TRAFFIC: Richard Thomas, richard.thomas@traffic.org, +44 752 6646 216

About WWF
WWF is one of the world's largest and most respected independent conservation organizations, with over 5 million supporters and a global network active in over 100 countries. WWF's mission is to stop the degradation of the Earth's natural environment and to build a future in which humans live in harmony with nature, by conserving the world's biological diversity, ensuring that the use of renewable natural resources is sustainable, and promoting the reduction of pollution and wasteful consumption.

About TRAFFIC
TRAFFIC, the wildlife trade monitoring network, works to ensure that trade in wild plants and animals is not a threat to the conservation of nature. TRAFFIC is a joint programme of IUCN and WWF.
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