Smuggling of rare animals to become a serious crime in Russia

Posted on 24 June 2013    
Portriat of Siberian tiger (Panthera tigris altaica) walking in snow, captive.
© / Edwin Giesbers / WWF
Moscow, Russia -- The Russian State Duma has approved new legislation that introduces tougher punishments for the poaching and trafficking of rare species. When this law comes into force, it will introduce criminal penalties specifically for the smuggling of rare and valuable animals. This category is expected to include species such as the Amur tiger, far-eastern leopard, polar bear, and the snow leopard among others.

Currently, only smugglers caught with shipments worth more than 1 million rubles are prosecuted as criminals. Additionally, Russian legislation does not provide a mechanism to determine the cost of rare animals. This makes it difficult to estimate the cost of some shipments, especially those containing rare animal derivatives, which makes initiating a criminal investigation nearly impossible.

“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’s 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 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 Chestin.

WWF Russia has been campaigning for these changes since the early 2000s. Unfortunately, the amendments do not include all of changes proposed by WWF, and do not address existing deficiencies in Russia’s legislation on poaching. WWF hopes these gaps will be closed with future improvements in legislation.
Portriat of Siberian tiger (Panthera tigris altaica) walking in snow, captive.
© / Edwin Giesbers / WWF Enlarge

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