Wildlife: Imports

Environment Food and Rural Affairs written question – answered on 20th March 2014.

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Photo of Zac Goldsmith Zac Goldsmith Conservative, Richmond Park

To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what steps his Department is taking to determine whether wild animals being imported into the UK are being sourced (a) illegally from the wild and (b) from legal captive-breeding facilities; what estimate he made of the number of animals so imported in the last three years; and what steps he takes to ensure good animal welfare standards in captive-breeding facilities in the UK.

Photo of George Eustice George Eustice The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

The UK is a party to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES). Information related to the import into the EU of any CITES specimen is the responsibility of, and is provided by, the CITES Management Authority of the exporting country. The UK must accept an export permit from a third country as being proof that specimens were obtained in accordance with the relevant legislation of the country concerned. However, if on import officials have reason to believe such information has been misdeclared, the specimen can be seized at the Border Inspection Post. DEFRA does not keep records of such seizures and has made no assessment of numbers of wild sourced specimens illegally imported.

The number of applications for imports of captive bred CITES specimens in the last three years is as follows:

  Applications Species Number of specimens
2011 394 78 15,021
2012 459 97 17,360
2013 394 91 13,529

Any import requests for captive bred CITES specimens are assessed by the UK's Scientific Authority (the Joint Nature Conservation Committee). This may involve the seeking of additional information from the country of origin. Specific animal welfare requirements usually fall to local authorities under the Animal Welfare Act 2006 (AWA). The AWA requires that all owners and keepers have to provide for the welfare needs of their animals; anyone failing to do so may be guilty of an offence. The UK's CITES licensing authority (the Animal Health and Veterinary Laboratories Agency) may require a care and accommodation questionnaire to be completed by an applicant to provide data regarding the final destination facilities of an import as part of the application process.

The Zoo Licensing Act 1981 sets out a comprehensive inspection regime for zoos: inspections must look at all features of the zoo relevant to the health, welfare and safety of the animals in them and the public.

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