AMSTERDAM The United Nations University
unveiled a new database on wildlife crime on Monday to help
Interpol combat the multi-billion dollar illegal trade in
animals and plants.
The database is part of a project to compile and analyze
data on wildlife crime provided by private and non-governmental
organizations around the world, and to put an exact value on
the illegal trade, estimated by some at over $20 billion per
The growing black market in wildlife has become the world's
third biggest source of criminal income after drugs and guns,
"Quantifying levels of wildlife crime has never before been
possible," Remi Chandran, research associate at the United
Nations University, said in a statement.
The international police agency Interpol says on its
website that the true value of illegal wildlife trade may never
be known as much of it occurs in less developed parts of the
world, but that it may be significantly higher than the $20
The new U.N. database, supported by the International Fund
for Animal Welfare, is intended to improve on Interpol's own
database, which relies on information submitted by national
authorities and is only shared among them.
Interpol praised the new model as promising and said it
would consider using it.
The project will raise awareness about the black market in
animals and plants by sharing information with the public, not
just with governments, the statement said.
The new database system was presented on the sidelines of a
June 3-15 meeting of the 171-nation Convention on International
Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) in The Hague.
Contraband, from elephant ivory to the organs of endangered
tigers, can sell for more than its weight in gold, driven
mainly by Chinese demand that has surged in line with the
country's expanding economy, scientists and environmentalists
Rare breeds have been decimated because of demand not only
from China but also from Westerners wanting alternative
treatment with products made of tiger bone, rhino horn and bear
Since 1970, about 98 percent of the world's black rhino
have been killed for their horns -- largely to supply the
Chinese medicine trade. Only 5,000 to 7,000 tigers are
estimated to be left in the wild, compared with 100,000 in