Help save the National Wildlife Crime Unit
The National Wildlife Crime Unit (NWCU) is one of the world's leading organisations devoted to combating wildlife crime, but it could now be under threat due to proposed funding cuts.
The highly praised and specialised unit is largely funded by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs and the Home Office. Next month however, will see the decision being made whether financial support will continue or cease after the Unit’s funding is due to run out on 31 March 2013.
Launched in 2006, the NWCU works solely to gather evidence and intelligence from the Police, border agencies and organisations, such as ourselves, to help target perpetrators of wildlife crime. Its Investigative Support Officers, who are highly experienced, provide invaluable investigative expertise and assistance to police forces, especially when the Police themselves have no previous experience or training in these areas.
Securing the future of this valuable unit is crucial to safeguarding our wildlife, its closure would also have a devastating impact on species conservation.
A recent report by MPs recognised the important role it plays and recommended that the Government "reinforces the success" of the Unit by providing long-term funding. More than 100 MPs have already signed an early day motion calling on the Government to secure the future of the unit.
Not only has the Unit’s work enabled many successful prosecutions; its recent intelligence has also highlighted some fundamental links between organised criminals in the UK and abroad.
Other recent operations initiated by the Unit targeted crimes such as badger-baiting with dogs, (where a notable rise in activity was triggered by the proposed badger cull), the smuggling of reptiles and amphibians and the persecution of raptors. As reported in the Guardian last Saturday, The RSPB announced that there is just one pair of breeding Hen Harriers left due to widespread Illegal hunting, mainly by gamekeepers on shooting estates. At least 633 birds of prey, from golden eagles to buzzards, were illegally poisoned between 2002 and 2011.
Joe Duckworth Chief Executive of the League Against Cruel Sports emphasised the importance of the Unit: “Considering the value of its work, the overall cost of running this ten person unit is minuscule in the grand scheme of things. It is essential that this hard working team continue to be funded to catch criminals who target and exploit wild animals for their own pleasure or personal gain.”
Green MP Caroline Lucas said: "With wildlife crime on the increase, the refusal of ministers - particularly those at the Home Office to recognise the severity of the problem and safeguard the NWCU is completely unforgivable."
Labour's Shadow Environment Secretary, Mary Creagh, also commented: "The Government must not go soft on tackling wildlife crime now. This is a unit which punches above its weight and does hugely valuable work, and it’s funding needs to be preserved and settled as a matter of urgency to give its officers the security they need to plan their future activities."
Please sign and share the HM Government e-petition for the Home Office to continue their funding of the National Wildlife Crime Unit here. If sharing via Twitter you can also use the hashtag #SAVENWCU.