Until now, police in England and Wales have included wildlife crimes in a larger pool of offenses, without paying particular attention to the damaging nature and unique circumstances involved in the animal trade. Now, officers across UK municipalities have been instructed to document wildlife crimes as separate, heinous acts, to allow the government to better address smuggling of illegal items such as elephant ivory and rhino horn.
"This is a major issue for us," Home Office minister Norman Baker told the Independent. "Do we want to be the generation that sees the end of the elephant, the tiger, the rhino? What a terrible legacy that would be for generations to come. ... We have a duty to take on the callous individuals who don't care what they are doing. They are completely immoral."
The new wildlife crime recording system will tackle 17 different offenses, including the trade in elephants, rhinos, leopards, tigers and tortoises. The first results of this change, which has been lauded by animal welfare activists as an important step toward stopping wildlife trafficking, will be available later this year. And, according to Baker, "this is just the beginning for how we record and respond to wildlife crime."