New proposals to increase wildlife protection

Bradshaw seeks to extend animal protection
Bradshaw seeks to extend animal protection

Those trading in endangered animals could receive jail sentences of up to five years, under proposals published today by the Government.

The measures are included in a consultation on the review of Part 1 of the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981.

Though the act has been amended numerous times since it came into force, there has not been any strategic review on the level of protection granted to wildlife.

The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) has said that the consultation will primarily be focused on biodiversity within the UK, but that non-native species will also be reviewed.

Proposals include adding a number of species to the protected list, such as the water vole and the short snouted and the spiny seahorses.

Launching the consultation, Conservation Minister Ben Bradshaw, said: "This consultation will allow all interested parties the opportunity to comment on our proposals and we would particularly welcome responses from the fishing and food industries which may be affected by listing of the angel shark, four species of skate and the roman snail."

In terms of non-British species, the Government is proposing prison sentences of up to five years for some offences, which would also have the effect of making the offences arrestable, and greater search powers for police and wildlife inspectors.

Environment Minister Elliot Morley said: "These proposals will give our police officers much stronger powers to investigate and prosecute wildlife offenders; whilst at the same time providing tougher penalties for those people who are found guilty.

"It is imperative we do all we can to tackle the illegal trade in wildlife. Without doubt this activity is a significant contributory factor to the alarming rate with which many of our rare and endangered species are disappearing".