Our police force is among the worst in the country at protecting wildlife, a new report has found.
The report, published by World Animal Protection, an organisation campaigning to stop animal cruelty, places Thames Valley Police in the bottom 13 for measures to protect wildlife against cruelty, out of 43 police forces in England and Wales.
The study surveyed Police and Crime Commissioners (PCCs) from each of the forces to establish what wildlife crime prevention measures were in place.
The report is published in the same week as findings were published by the International Fund for Animal Welfare which showed that some of the world’s most endangered species are bought and sold online in the UK, including exotic birds, primates and crocodiles.
Online sales of illegal ivory in the UK were also reported to have shot up by 47 per cent since 2008.
South East Euro-MP Catherine Bearder is a wildlife campaigner and has worked in the European Parliament to protect biodiversity for future generations.
Her recent campaign calls on the European Commission to develop an action plan to tackle wildlife crime.
She said: “I am devastated Thames Valley Police has come so low down the list of forces tackling this issue.
“Wildlife crime is fast being used by organised criminal gangs as an easy option, as the level of policing is low.
“Thames Valley Police should recognise this and take action.
“Protection of our biodiversity is so vital to ensure the wellbeing of our planet and the survival of some of the country’s most treasured creatures.
“I am now calling on Thames Valley Police to step up their game and ensure they make wildlife crime one of their priorities.”
Simon Pope, of World Animal Protection UK, said: “We recognise that many forces have extremely hard working and conscientious wildlife crime officers.
“However, their roles and responsibilities are not always as supported as they might be by dealing with wildlife crime as part of an integrated and strategic response to wider policing efforts.
“The people increasingly profiting from wildlife crime are using it to subsidise other types of criminality – often more serious and organised crime – and therefore viewing it as somehow a lesser priority would be a mistake.
“World Animal Protection has made a number of recommendations based on the successful efforts of forces who have made this connection and who have seen wildlife crime and rural crime fall significantly.”