Animal parts trafficking rife in Britain, says WWF
LONDON - Britons may be famous for their love of animals - but more often than not the beasts in question are stuffed, illegal and endangered, environmental body WWF said yesterday.
Cashing in on its long history as a trading hub and some notoriously lax laws, traffickers in parts of rare animals such as tigers, rhinos and elephants are using Britain as a staging post for an ever-increasing illegal wildlife trade, WWF said.
\"We like to think of ourselves as a nation of animal lovers and I had assumed we were quite tough on traffickers of endangered species,\" said TV presenter and WWF ambassador Nick Ross.
\"But on the contrary, Britain has become a world centre for crimes that are wiping out the world\'s natural history.\"
The WWF called on British courts to start issuing tougher sentences on traffickers, who regularly receive large fines or custodial sentences in the United States or Germany.
In one infamous example, police raided the premises of a British business and confiscated 138 shatoosh shawls, produced from the hair of the critically endangered Tibetan antelope.
Even though around 1,000 antelopes would have died to make the shawls, which were priced at a total of 353,000 pounds ($515,000), the company was fined only 1,500 pounds.
\"At the moment, the sentences handed down don\'t act as a deterrent to the organised criminals who conduct this trade. They weigh up the risks, and yet still they think it worthwhile to carry on,\" said Crawford Allan of wildlife trade monitor TRAFFIC.
In the last six years, British customs have seized over one million items which roughly fell under the illegal animal trade umbrella, ranging from two-week-old stuffed tiger cubs to obscure Chinese medicines.
However, Allan said this haul represented \"just the tip of the iceberg\" in a global trade whose value ran into the billions of dollars.
REUTERS NEWS SERVICE
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