The Metropolitan Police Wildlife Crime Unit is responsible for
upholding and enforcing the many laws protecting wildlife in the Greater London Area.
Policing an area which combines a large
urban centre with extensive surrounding countryside inevitably means that the Unit deals
with a wide range of wildlife crimes from the illegal persecution of badgers, birds and
other protected species in the London Area, to the illegal international trade in
endangered species from all over the world.
London is also home to some individuals
who travel widely throughout the UK and abroad to commit crimes against wildlife. This
means that the Wildlife Crime Unit often deals with cases involving the collecting of rare
birds eggs, and even live birds of prey like Peregrine Falcons and Goshawks which have
been taken from the wild illegally elsewhere in the UK for the high value falconry market.
London is also an
international trading centre and there is an active illegal trade in endangered species
here. Much of this comes in the form of wildlife products such as traditional Chinese
medicine (TCM) made from Tigers, Rhinos, Bears and many other less well known, but equally
endangered species. In 1995 the Metropolitan Police launched Operation Charm, the first
police initiative against the illegal trade in endangered species, in the UK.
Operation Charm deals with all
aspects of the endangered species trade from TCM to the use of Shahtoosh (Tibetan Antelope
wool) in the manufacture of high value woollen shawls, the trade in elephant ivory,
reptile skins, taxidermy, and other endangered species items. So far, Operation Charm has
led to the seizure of over 20,000 items made from endangered species, and the conviction
of a number of traders in the courts. However, Operation Charm is not just about law
enforcement, and the Wildlife Crime Unit also works with traders and other groups to
prevent the illegal trade, as well as taking initiatives to increase public awareness of
the endangered species trade in London.
At a more local level, much of
our day to day wildlife work involves our resident bird population. In the spring and
summer each year we get many reports of damage to, or destruction of birds nests.
The species involved are often wildfowl, and Swans, particularly, are often subject to
attacks by vandals.
The Wildlife Crime Unit is
based at New Scotland Yard and is comprised of the Mets Wildlife Liaison Officer and
a small team of police officers who have been appointed to deal with wildlife offences in
their local areas. Each of these officers undertake their wildlife work in addition to
their other policing duties so our resources are limited.
As its name suggests, the
Wildlife Crime Unit deals with crime. We are not a animal welfare organisation and we are
not able to deal with reports of injured birds or animals where no crime has been
committed. Animal welfare issues are normally referred to the RSPCA, in appropriate cases,
specialist agencies such as The Swan Sanctuary, The Fox Project, local Badger Groups etc.,
but please do contact us if you need to report wildlife offences.