France to beef up fines, seizures in ivory trade

PARIS (AFP) - President Francois Hollande said Thursday France would increase fines for illegal trading in ivory and endangered animal species.

Speaking at a round table on poaching that gathered French and African leaders, Mr Hollande said he had asked Justice Minister Christiane Taubira to ramp up action against trafficking in imperilled species and animal parts.

Police and customs officials will be directed to step up surveillance, he said.

Purchasing illegal ivory "has to be an act that is clearly punishable," Mr Hollande said.

"The profitability of poaching (must) be placed under threat through heavy fines."

According to presidential aides, fines will be increased tenfold. Mr Hollande called for better cooperation between national customs authorities, as well as standardised penalties, to close loopholes.

France will put forward proposals next February for giving the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) more powers in fighting the trade in endangered species, Hollande added.

According to the UN Environment Programme (UNEP), the global trade in wildlife is worth between US$15-20 billion (S$ 18-25 billion) annually.

The round table was held on the eve of a two-day summit on peace and security in Africa, expected to be attended by about 40 leaders from the continent.