Published 7th November 2018
New study highlights Belgium’s role as wildlife trade hub
Brussels, Belgium, 7th November 2018—Belgium’s central role as an importer and distributer of wildlife products within the European Union (EU) was highlighted today with the launch of a new joint TRAFFIC and WWF Belgium report at the nation’s Houses of Parliament.
Wildlife trade in Belgium: An analysis of CITES trade and seizure data
Musing, L., Norwisz, M., Kloda, J. and Kecse-Nagy, K.
The new study, Wildlife trade in Belgium: An analysis of CITES trade and seizure data, examines trade in species listed under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), and builds on earlier studies identifying Belgium as an important destination and transit point of such species, particularly from Africa to Asia.
The latest study identified Belgium “as the top EU importer of reptile commodities within the EU, as reported by weight.” This trade was dominated by reptile meat with Belgium responsible for importing 787,251 kg of mainly Nile Crocodile Crocodylus niloticus meat, predominantly from Zimbabwe over the period studied, 2007–2016. However, based on the available data, it is unclear if the imported meat is consumed in Belgium or traded on within the EU to other Member States, due to the EU single market and free movement of goods.
Belgium was also the second largest importer of plant products, including timber, as reported by volume, into the EU during the time period with trade dominated by sawn wood—just over 68,129 cubic metres in total—particularly Afrormosia Pericopsis elata originating from Cameroon and the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). Yet despite the large volumes of timber entering Belgium, seizures of wood deemed to be illegally imported were rare: “this disparity highlights the need for Belgium to ensure it is not being used as an illegal trade hub for protected timber species,” write the report’s authors.
Plant imports included significant quantities of species with known medicinal properties, including 213,919 kg of wild-sourced African Cherry Prunus africana bark, used to treat a variety of ailments ranging from fevers and even insanity, through to use as an appetite stimulant.
An analysis of wildlife seizures found Belgium to be a major intermediary in the illegal transport of CITES-listed commodities such as plant-derived medicinal products, reptile derived leather products, ivory and seahorse bodies. The data suggest that these commodities in transit through Belgium are mainly coming from West and Central Africa, going to China and are being shipped through air transport and postal systems. Most seizures took place because of a lack of or invalid CITES permits, or a breach of International Air Transport Association (IATA) regulations.
Among a number of key recommendations made by the report’s authors are encouraging the country’s CITES Management Authority to continue to ensure the legality of shipments entering Belgium, particularly for timber imports; further regular training for enforcement staff dealing with CITES issues; more targeted controls of CITES-listed timber imports at Antwerp sea port; enhanced co-operation between enforcement agencies; and increased awareness and understanding of market trade dynamics.
International trade in wildlife products can by highly lucrative, but unless properly managed can threaten biodiversity, public health and even the socio-economic stability of countries
Louisa Musing, one of the study’s authors
“It is clearly in the best interests of governments to ensure such trade is operated in a legal and sustainable fashion.”
Dr Sofie Ruysschaert, Wildlife policy officer with WWF Belgium, said: “The research presented today shows a need for stronger co-ordinated efforts by all actors in the enforcement chain, including customs, police and the judiciary, to fight illegal wildlife trade in Belgium.”
“WWF Belgium believes a national action plan on illegal wildlife trade is needed, with a long-term vision and dedicated actions—in line with the existing EU action plan.”
The Belgian CITES Management Authority is especially thanked for providing authorisation to analyse their seizure data, for their continued support towards the project and for their review of the report.
Nile Crocodile meat imported into Belgium
68,129 cu m
sawn wood - mostly Afrormosa Pericopsis elata imported
eel meat imported
for more information:
Abbie Pearce TRAFFIC Media Support Manager