Axelle Darmont / Staff member of the University Saint-Louis

Former collaborator to the DG Environment of the Belgian Federal public Service Health, Food Chain Safety and Environment. Currently staff member of the University Saint-Louis / Jurist (wildlife law and criminal law), author of popular science articles

The translation of this testimony was generated automatically by a translation program. Thanks for your understanding.

One of my main concerns is that legal procedures and enforcement policies are inefficient and too slow to tackle the ever worse environment situation. The emergency of the current environmental challenges requires a very fast and efficient reaction.
But even when laws are finally passed, their enforcement is not a priority. For example, customs tend to focus on tax evasion and drug trafficking but show little interest in wildlife trafficking (ivory, rhino horns, bushmeat, living exotic birds,…). And yet, this is now a billion-euro criminal industry and a major threat to biodiversity.
Moreover, as a jurist, I cannot help but notice that penalties for wildlife trafficking are ridiculously insignificant in many countries and inefficient to discourage further trafficking in the rest of the world, which makes it a very profitable and attractive criminal activity.
Another concern of mine is the lack of knowledge about animals and ecosystems among the general public but also even among some of the actors involved in biodiversity protection.
Some of those key actors have a deep knowledge of their particular field of expertise (law, administrative procedures,…) but do not know the animals they are dealing with. For example, a person once told me that he had applied for a job related to wildlife not because he was interested in biodiversity but because they were fewer applicants for that position.
As a consequence of this lack of knowledge and interest, people may tend to view biodiversity as a mere abstract concept, numbers to be measured by statistics. But sometimes they do not grasp what has been revealed by science over the last decade : the complex and fascinating nature of those animals as the result of millions of years of evolution, as well as their identity as sensible living beings, each of them with its own “personality”.
In my daily life, I always encourage people not to consume wildlife by-products (such as ivory, bushmeat, trophies, wild animals as pets,..). But in my experience, protection is efficient only if people are motivated. But how can you be motivated if you are not interested ? As J.-Y. Cousteau once wrote : « people will protect what they love. Yet we love only what we know ». This is why I try to promote popular science literature (which is sometimes neglected or even despised by some academics and specialists) and share the most fascinating aspects of biodiversity.

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