After an impressive year for FATF, under the US Presidency, which signed off last month, and concluded with the Florida Plenary, the Chinese Presidency now has the lead and has already signalled both an intention to continue with important existing FATF priorities, but are also signalling the next year will include something different, by including the illegal wildlife trade as an additional new priority.
The FATF announcement is significant, bearing in mind the importance China plays in the illegal wildlife trade as a major destination country for all manner of endangered animals, but this is not just about China, which had taken significant action over the last few years, including banning ivory, but about the entire FATF membership and all Countries subject to implementing FATF standards.
This announcement reflects momentum that has focussed on treating the illegal wildlife trade as more than a conservation issue but also an international crime issue and one that involves criminal groups that also involve themselves in the illegal wildlife trade due to the significant proceeds available and the low likelihood of being caught and prosecuted.
That decisive action can be taken, when public and private sectors increase their focus on illegal wildlife trade is clear and is evidenced by the recent the US Department of Justice indictment of suspected drug and wildlife trafficking syndicate leaders operating in Africa and numerous high profile significant seizures in Ports all over Asia including in Hong Kong and Singapore.
The clear message being sent by China’s leadership and the wider international community is that the status quo is changing and the criminal calculus on targeting endangered wildlife for additional proceeds, would be wise to change also. Whilst endangered animals will still remain in the crosshairs of criminals for some time yet, and as such we must do what we can to continue efforts to conserve these animals, this announcement along with recent momentum, and the establishment of new public private partnerships targeting those behind the killing, provides additional tools to target those involved in this terrible crime.