Belgium plays pivotal role in the illegal trade in wild animals and plants

A a new report by the Worldwide fund for nature (WWF) confirms what was shown in an edition of VRT News’ documentary programme Pano. In the programme that is available with English subtitles on our site, Belgium was shown to be a distribution centre for the illegal trade in bush meat. The WWF report that will be presented to Belgium’s Federal Parliament later today.     

Based on a study by TRAFFIC, an NGO that traces the illegal trade in endangered species, the WWF report shows that Belgium is a major centre for the trade in the illegal trade in animals (meat, skins and other products) and plants. TRAFFIC’s report is based on figures from a 10 year period between 2007 and 2016.   

The study shows that countries in the EU play an important role in the trade in wild animals, both as a market and as points of passage to other markets. With Belgium’s central location within the European Union, it is one of the main players in the illegal trade. Zaventem Airport, near Brussels and the port of Antwerp both play pivotal roles.   

Belgium is one of the biggest importers and exporters of illegal products made from reptiles, such as meat from Nile crocodiles. Belgium is also the second biggest importer of African teak and medicinal bark from the African cherry tree.

Some of the products that are traded come from fauna and flora that appears on the CITES list of protected species.

CITES is a UN organisation that compiles a list of all the world’s endangered species and determines which can cannot be traded. The list includes medicinal plants, ivory, sea horses and reptiles.    

WWF says that the trade in wild animals and plants is one of the biggest threats to biodiversity. By presenting its report to the Federal Parliament it hopes to put the issue onto the political agenda.