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WWF report points to Belgium's role in illegal wildlife trade
Belgium is a "major intermediary" in the illegal trade of wildlife products within the EU, according to a new report this week which calls on the country to develop an urgent action plan.
The joint report by charities WWF Belgium and Traffic, which was presented to the federal parliament on Wednesday, highlights Belgium's role as a major wildlife trade hub, particularly from Africa and Asia, with products ranging from reptile-derived leather products to ivory and seahorse bodies.
The study examined the trade in species listed under Cites - the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora. Belgium was identified as the top EU importer of crocodile meat, predominantly from Zimbabwe, and the second largest importer of timber and plant-derived medicinal products from Cameroon and the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
Among the report's recommendations are ongoing checks on the legality of shipments entering Belgium, particularly timber imports, and better training for enforcement staff at Antwerp sea port.
Dr Sofie Ruysschaert, wildlife policy officer with WWF Belgium, said: "Our research shows a need for stronger co-ordinated efforts by all actors in the enforcement chain, including customs, police and the judiciary, to fight illegal wildlife trade in Belgium.
"WWF Belgium believes a national action plan on illegal wildlife trade is needed, with a long-term vision and dedicated actions - in line with the existing EU action plan."