As well as crimes against our native wildlife, the trade in endangered species goes on in many sectors across London – from medicine, food and fashion to art and antiques. Because huge amounts of money can be made, it attracts serious criminals. There’s been increased interest at a high level in the link between wildlife crime and organised crime, with Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, and the Prince of Wales all speaking out.
International trade in elephant ivory and other elephant products is tightly controlled by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), which accords varying degrees of protection to more than 34,000 species of endangered plants and animals. Illegal trading is a persistent problem, whether in shops, on the internet, or on market stalls. Any CITES-controlled animal product must be sold with a certificate.
All seven species of marine turtle are protected by CITES. The illegal sale of shell and other turtle products is widespread in the capital. While trade primarily involves tortoiseshell from hawksbill turtles, other species are killed to make leather goods or beauty products.
Illegal trade in rhino horn is putting the African rhino under serious threat. Some horns are sold for ornamental purposes, but the greatest demand comes from the traditional Asian medicine market. Freshly-cut rhino is more valuable than gold on the black market; it currently sells for around £40,000 a kilo.