by Daniel Boyco
to the International Criminal Police Organization-Interpol (ICPO-Interpol),
which has a membership of 178 countries, wildlife trafficking has become
the second largest form of black market commerce on the planet, behind
drug dealing and ahead of illegal arms sales. Raymond E. Kendal of ICPO-Interpol
reports that, "Africa, South and Central America and Asia are the
main producers while Europe, North America and the Middle and Far East
are main consumers." In the shadowy world of the illicit wildlife
trade, Alberta ranks as both a producer and a consumer.
we lounge in front of our television sets watching programs set in the
African jungle or the Amazon rainforest, it's easy to overlook the fact
that Alberta has its own share of players in this underground marketplace.
They may not be dealing in exotic spotted cats or endangered reptiles,
but the locals have ready access to a homegrown list of wild commodities
that is substantial and lucrative. Merchandise such as meat for the
table, fish for restaurants, trophy heads for collectors and bear gall
bladders for traditional medicines feed these networks and, as the demand
escalates, the prices soar. This places excessive demands on our natural
treasures and taps the human and technical resources required to stop
Hauck, writing for her Master's Thesis for the Faculty of Law at the
University of Cape Town in South Africa, reports that, "The illegal
exploitation of natural resources is a critical socio-political and
economic problem in developing countries. Therefore, in order to develop
broad based strategies of intervention, the underlying dynamics of the
problem must be investigated and understood."
Although Canada is not a developing country, we are not immune to the
problems associated with poaching for profit. If we intend to develop
our own strategies of intervention, we must first acknowledge that it
exists right here in our own backyard.
money attracts a web of players that extends from the bush country of
northern Alberta to the herbalist's counter in the South Pacific and
from the shallow bays of our lakes to the steamy seafood kitchens of
uptown West Coast. It all begins right here, and the deal is as likely
to take place over the tailgate of an old pick-up truck as it is in
a foreign country on the other side of the planet.
Albertans have seen first hand the results of declining walleye populations,
diminished hunting opportunities and strained enforcement budgets, revealing
to us that the proximity of the situation does not diminish its significance.
was a time not long ago that a hefty fine for trafficking in wildlife
was a rare occurrence. Nowadays a stiff jail sentence is the more likely
outcome. Why the change? An evolution is taking place as the world becomes
smaller and the black market in wildlife grows. Officers are becoming
more effective in their quest for poachers; prosecutors are taking a
greater interest; new legislation reflects the severity of the offence
and the judiciary views it for what it is, a theft of a precious natural
heritage in exchange for blood and money.
Boyco is a member of the Conservation Officers Association of Alberta