The dismantling of a New Zealand group which combatted wildlife crime has been described as “unfathomable” and a “blunder” by a former high-ranking international official.
The Wildlife Enforcement Group (WEG) consisted of an officer each from the Department of Conservation (DOC), Customs, and from what was the Ministry for Agriculture and Fisheries.
DOC estimates the WEG were responsible for 21 successful prosecutions against 28 defendants while they were operating. Six of these were high-profile arrests of international poachers and smugglers attempting to take New Zealand’s protected geckos.
Since the group was disbanded in 2012, no gecko smugglers have been arrested, despite evidence suggesting smuggling is an ongoing problem.