Monday, 24 June 2013

Russia significantly tightens laws on wildlife trade and smuggling

Smuggling of valuable endangered animals became a crime in Russia
June 2013. The Russian State Duma has approved legal amendments that introduce tougher punishment for poaching and trafficking of rare species. WWF has been campaigning for these changes to take place since early 2000s.

When this law comes into force, it will introduce criminal penalties for smuggling of especially valuable animals. This category is expected to include endangered species such as Amur tiger, far-eastern leopard, polar bear, snow leopard and others.

Until this change in the law, only smugglers who were caught shipping rare animals worth more than 1 million roubles were prosecuted as criminals. However, Russian law does not provide a mechanism for determining the cost of rare animals. If, for example, a smuggler is caught with parts of captured animals, it is difficult to estimate the cost of the shipment, and, therefore, to initiate a criminal investigation.

Loophole closed
"The new bill will close this gap. Now, regardless of the value and volume, the smuggler caught with parts of a tiger or other valuable species, will be prosecuted by criminal law", says WWF-Russia CEO Igor Chestin.

The amendments also introduced criminal punishment for storage and transportation of valuable species and considerably increased the responsibility for their poaching.

"Thanks to these legal changes, Russia now has a mechanism to combat the trade in rare animals and their derivatives. With efficient police involvement, we hope to reduce the demand for the Amur tiger on the internal black market down to zero", adds Igor Chestin.

More gaps in legislation 
However, the amendments do not correct all the deficiencies in the legislation regarding protection of species from poaching, and do not include all of changes proposed by WWF. WWF hopes that the rest of the gaps will be closed by further improvement of the legislation.

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