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Escaped lion in Montenergo highlights the problem of illegal wildlife trade

The case of a lion cub that ran away from a private estate in Budva, Montenegro warns about a bigger problem - illegal wildlife trade in Europe

WWF expresses concern about news that a lost lion cub is roaming the forests of Montenegro. The lion is allegedly owned by a foreign citizen living in Budva. However, there is no information about its transport or trade, indicating the lion was brought into the country illegally. The Environment Protection Agency of Montenegro published a call for volunteers to join the search for the lion cub. 

Lions aren't pets, and keeping them in captivity even in justified and legal cases requires many conditions to be met. They should always be kept in spaces as similar to their natural environment as possible. Besides ethical questions, a much bigger and more prominent problem is illegal wildlife trade, which generates over 4.4 billion euros globally, according to Europol. Wild animal trafficking has disastrous consequences for biodiversity and brings many species to the brink of extinction.

„Even though there are laws that regulate wildlife crime, in practice, cases like this often go under the radar due to a lack of resources and insufficient cooperation among relevant institutions. It's important to establish efficient and long-term cross-organizational cooperation, increase the number of experts who would focus exclusively on this type of crime, and educate the general public about the harm they cause. It is everyone's responsibility to report wildlife crimes, including trafficking, poaching, and poisoning, which are often interconnected,” says Snježana Malić-Limari from WWF Adria

European countries are often the endpoint as well as areas of transit for big cats like lions and tigers. Besides trafficking cubs or dead animals as trophies, European countries are often transit routes for the illegal trade of lion bones, teeth, and claws from Africa to Asia, where they're used in alternative medicine and as jewelry. Even though these cases don't often reach the public, they are not rare, and illegal trade frequently includes ivory, rhino horns, and live animals like turtles and birds.

Realizing how frequent these crimes are in Europe, WWF Adria is implementing the "Successful wildlife crime prosecution in Europe" project (LIFE SWiPE) in the region. The aim is to discourage wildlife crime, and ultimately reduce illegal activity through fostering successful cooperation between relevant institutions and raising public awareness about the importance and scope of the problems associated with wildlife crime.

Cases like this confirm that wildlife crimes are a serious problem in our region as well. WWF works to preserve nature and wildlife, but it's necessary to include the general public and official institutions to ensure a future for endangered animals. This lion cub is a warning to all of us that we need to act, because systemic solutions require a long time, and endangered species don't have a lot of time left.
Lion Cubs

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