After its entry into force in April 2018, Spain became the first European country to transpose the European Union Action Plan against wildlife trafficking (2016-2020) to the national context.

The central objective of the plan is to prevent illegal trafficking and poaching by attacking their causes at the source, while involving public administrations and civil society, and acting both nationally and internationally. For this year 2020, the promoters of the plan are set as objectives to continue advancing in the formation of all parts of the coercive chain and continue working with the countries of origin of illegal wildlife trafficking.

Among the most outstanding initiatives of the plan developed during the past year are:

  • Hitting wildlife trafficking

The Ministry for Ecological Transition and the Demographic Challenge, in collaboration with the Nature Protection Service (SEPRONA) of the Civil Guard, has developed several operations to address illegal wildlife trafficking from different fronts.

These include the Taxideralia operation, concluded in February 2019 with the intervention of more than 200 copies of naturalized protected species from illegal taxidermy workshops. The Taxideralia operation began after detecting in 2018 a proliferation of online advertisements selling dissected animals of species protected by the agreement CITES (International Convention against Trafficking in Wild Species).

Operation Celacanto, which ended in July 2019, confiscated 2,296 specimens of 70 wildlife species protected by international conventions and valued at more than one million euros. The operation was coordinated by Europol at the continental level and by Interpol at the international level. In Spain, more than 2,000 inspections were carried out in establishments selling animals, wholesalers, private collectors and antique stores. At the same time, coordinated inspections were carried out in ports and airports.

The third phase of the Celacanto operation, framed within Operation Thunderball (coordinated by Interpol), focused mainly on the illegal trafficking of African elephant ivory. The operation ended with 1,669 seizures, among which 543 pieces of ivory worth more than 400,000 euros stand out.

  • Training for SEPRONA agents and support for science

In order to carry out these operations successfully, prior training received by SEPRONA agents was essential. Thus, agents have received highly specialized courses, such as in the recognition and identification of ivory.

From the TIFIES Plan, in collaboration with the CSIC National Accelerator Center, the commissioning of the C14 isotope analysis has been promoted, for the dating of ivory pieces. It is a reliable scientific method to accurately date the date the elephant died. The systematic application of this technique to ivory declared as antiquity will help to combat fraud and violation of CITES regulations through the illegal ivory trade. In the EU, only ivory carvings can only be sold legally, ivory carvings only if they are prior to 1947, and therefore can be considered antiques.

Likewise, and in collaboration with the Higher Technical School of Forestry, Forestry and Natural Environment Engineering, MITECO has taught 56 ​​SEPRONA agents courses in macroscopic wood anatomy in the framework of an operation against international timber traffic that still It is still ongoing.

In addition to the training, the agents have been provided with an Early Timber Alert guide, which includes all types of wood protected by the CITES agreement, and with a kit with tools for obtaining wood samples and two attachable magnifying glasses to the camera of the mobile that allow to enlarge the image up to 400 times, and thus to be able to observe clearly the particularities of each type of wood, and that have been previously defined in the guide. In this way, when the agents find documentation that does not correspond to the alleged wood species, they can activate the early warning and temporarily immobilize the cargo.

  • Combat wildlife trafficking at its source.

The TIFIES Plan has launched the Ecoguardas program, an initiative framed within the EU's "NaturAfrica" ​​strategy to protect wildlife in Africa and offer green economy opportunities to local populations in the African continent.

In this sense, Ecoguardas contemplates the training and modernization of the equipment of the local environmental guards of several African countries, and the integration of new technologies to fight on the ground more effectively against environmental crimes and especially wildlife poaching.

  • International conferences

Intensifying cross-border cooperation is essential to deal with illegal trafficking of species, often structured as an organized crime, and which affects not only the species and their habitats but also the local populations.

Thus, at the Lima Conference, held in October 2019, MITECO showed the different lines of work initiated by Spain in the framework of TIFIES development and participated in the work sessions that aimed to exchange experiences and promote solutions to prevent and tackle the illegal wildlife trade and stimulate the involvement of civil society. Spain, through the MITECO adhered to the Declaration of Lima, showing its commitment in the fight against illegal wildlife trafficking in Latin America and in transnational cooperation in this area.

Creating ties with NGOs and scientific societies. 23 private entities and scientific and conservation societies have joined the work of the TIFIES Plan during the past year through the approval of the Resolution of Collaborating Entities. In this way, the involvement of civil society in the fight against illegal trafficking and international poaching of wild fauna and flora is favored.

The contribution of non-profit organizations, private companies, research centers and universities, aware and committed against wildlife trafficking, is essential both to raise awareness of society as a whole, and to actively collaborate with public administrations in actions intended to combat these criminal activities.

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