A specialist Metropolitan Police unit which protects the capital’s wildlife and combats the trade in endangered species is itself under threat unless City Hall provides more cash.
London Assembly Members have expressed concern over the future of the Met’s Wildlife Crime Unit (WCU) which will lose part of its funding when a partnership with the World Society for the Protection of Animals ends.
The charity has part-funded the unit for the past two years but the cash it provides will no longer be available from next April.
Earlier this week the Assembly unanimously agreed a motion calling on Mayor Boris Johnson, who oversees the Met through the Mayor’s Office for Policing and Crime, to ensure the unit receives “sufficient funding” to continue its work.
Assembly Members also want the Mayor “to ensure that the work of the WCU is regularly publicised to increase public awareness of its achievements.”
Steve O’Connell AM, who proposed the motion, said: “London is an international hub for business and trade; sadly that includes the trade in exotic and endangered animals, both dead and alive. The Met’s Wildlife Crime Unit does a fantastic job in taking on the organised criminal gangs behind this trade as well as pursuing people abusing animals in London.
“The WPSA has made a great contribution to keeping the unit open but the Met should not be relying on a charity to fund this vital role. I am sure the Mayor will recognise the great work the WCU is doing and ensure its continued funding.”
Jenny Jones AM, who seconded the motion, said: “Wildlife crime is the fourth largest global economic crime estimated to generate £8-10 billion a year, and those criminals threaten the existence of too many endangered species.
“We should not expect the vital work the WCU does to tackle these crimes to be reliant on charity; the Mayor must recognise his responsibility to keep this specialist unit off the endangered list.”
The full text of the motion reads as follows:
“The Assembly notes the important role of the Metropolitan Police Wildlife Crime Unit (WCU) in tackling wildlife crime in London. This includes the illegal sale of endangered species and parts of animals such as tortoises, elephants and rhinos, illegal fishing and poaching, badger baiting, and acts of harm to local wildlife such as swans, deer and birds. Such incidents are criminal and can sometimes be linked to other forms of criminality, including serious organised crime.
The Assembly further notes that, for the past two years, the WCU has been partially funded by the World Society for the Protection of Animals (WSPA), but that this funding will no longer be available from April 2014.
The Assembly believes that it is important that London continues to be able to tackle wildlife crime effectively. The Assembly therefore calls upon the Mayor to ensure that sufficient funding is available from April 2014 so that the work of the WCU can continue. The Assembly further calls upon the Mayor to ensure that the work of the WCU is regularly publicised to increase public awareness of its achievements.”