The London Conference on the Illegal Wildlife Trade was attended by over 40 countries. It concluded last week by publishing a declaration. While rhinos, elephants and tigers were the focus of attention of the Conference, the declaration clearly relates to the illegal use of any wildlife.

The Declaration called for all responsible groups to help officials in the fight against the criminal use of wildlife. Indeed it mentions the important role the private sector -that is industries like ours – can play in fighting the illegal actions of the dishonest.

After the conference OATA Chief Executive Keith Davenport said: “I welcome this recognition that industry can, and indeed does, play in fighting smuggling and other criminal activities. OATA will always seek to help the authorities in fighting those who chose to repetitively, systematically and deliberately flout the law. Unfortunately, as prosecutions have shown, our sector is not free of such criminal activity. Those who flout the law do so for their personal gain – that is not trade, it is trafficking. The declaration calls for the judiciary to play their part in protecting the wildlife, and also by secondary intention the reputation of honest traders, by applying proportionate but significant sentences to criminals smuggling wildlife.

“The declaration calls on industry to have zero tolerance of the illegal use of wildlife in their respective sectors. We applaud this call and OATA will continue to do what it can to achieve zero tolerance in the ornamental aquatic sector. Honest traders and wildlife are the victims when criminal smuggling happens – honest businesses can and should be part of helping the authorities to confront these activities and be part of the solution.

“The term illegal trade is unfortunate in my view. Trade is the honest process of earning a living. Criminal smuggling and trafficking of wildlife should never be confused with honest trade and it would be better if we can marginalise further the criminals by giving them no chance to be associated with the honest trade. They should be marginalised by society and identified for what they are – criminals.”