EU candidates urged to fight wildlife smuggling
BUDAPEST - Countries hoping to join the European Union must do more to clamp down on the widespread smuggling of protected animals and birds, the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) said yesterday.
While EU candidate countries from central and eastern Europe have come under pressure to get tough on human trafficking and arms and drugs smuggling, little attention has been paid to date on a lucrative trade in exotic and endangered wildlife, it said.
Several EU hopefuls are on key transit routes used by the illicit international wildlife trade smuggling rare and protected species from Asia, Africa and South America to the EU.
Hungary has become an important market for exotic species of reptiles and birds, while the Czech Republic was the world\'s biggest trader in rare species of parrot, according to a 1999 report by the WWF\'s wildlife trade monitoring network.
\"With EU enlargement, responsibility for controlling the entry and exit of many species to and from the EU will fall to these new member states,\" said Caroline Raymakers, Director of TRAFFIC Europe, the WWF\'s wildlife trade monitoring network.
A year ago, Hungarian customs officials seized the carcasses of more than 11,000 protected birds in a lorry on the border with Croatia, heading for EU member Italy.
Katalin Rodics, head of wildlife protection in Hungary\'s environment ministry, said over 400,000 birds - from blackbirds and quails to turtle doves and larks - had been poached by Italians in Central Europe since the mid-1990s, usually ending up as delicacies on Italian restaurant menus.
Helped by Austrian and WWF funding, Hungary\'s new TRAFFIC office will assess legal and illegal trade patterns and exchange information with other EU candidates.
Raymakers said authorities, customs officials and civil groups in both candidate countries and the 15 EU member states should forge closer links and swap reliable information to clamp down on the poachers and smugglers.
Story by Andras Muller
REUTERS NEWS SERVICE
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