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Smuggling of valuable endangered animals became a crime in Russia

02 july 2013
Russian President approved in the 3rd reading 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 such endangered species as Amur tiger, far-eastern leopard, polar bear, snow leopard, and others.

Now only smugglers who are caught on shipment of rare animals worth more than 1 million rubles are prosecuted as criminals. At the same time, the Russian legislation does  not provide a mechanism for determining the cost of rare animals, which are not part of the legal trade. If, for example, a smuggler is caught with odd derivatives (parts of captured animals), it is difficult to estimate the cost of the shipment, and, therefore, initiate a criminal investigation.

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.

Besides, the amendments 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 of combatting the buyers of rare animals and their derivatives. With efficient police involvement, there will be conditions to decrease the demand for the Amur tiger on the internal black market down to zero”, adds Igor Chestin.

At the same time, the amendments do not correct all the deficiencies that exist 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.

At the same time, the amendments do not correct all the deficiencies that exist in the legislation that establishes the responsibility for illegal hunting, and do not take into account all the proposals WWF. WWF hopes that the remaining gaps will be eliminated by subsequent legislation.

The decision to develop the bill was taken at a meeting on tiger conservation on October 22 2012. It was presided by Sergei Ivanov, the Chief of Staff of the Office of the President. WWF reminded the participants about the legal gaps that hinder efficient and full-scale conservation of tiger and other endangered species.

WWF has been campaigning for these legal changes since early 2000s. In November 2010 the International Tiger Conservation Forum was held in St. Petersburg and attended by the prime ministers of tiger range countries. WWF Russia had made the proposal that it be held in the Russian Federation. The Global Tiger Recovery Program was adopted at the Forum with the ambitious goal to double tiger numbers by the year 2022.

Skins of tiger cubs seized from smugglers
© WWF России