Colombia Ramps Up Efforts To Battle Environmental Crime

Colombia is one of the world’s most bio-diverse countries, and tens of thousands of animals and plants it has are part of the nation’s heritage. However, there has been a rise in environmental crime that continues to damage the ecosystem, including deforestation and oil theft.

In 2020, an increased 8% of the land was deforested in Colombia, most of which was in the Amazon Rainforest and equaling 424,000 acres in just one year. Wildlife is also a large problem, with German tourists caught only last week carrying hundreds of arachnids. Just in 2021, police have seized nearly 6,000 birds, 2,500 mammals, 11,000 reptiles, and 300,000 plants and stopped them from being trafficked.

After identifying mining and animal trafficking as a serious threat, Colombia’s government deployed 100 criminal investigation and intelligence officers to tackle environmental crimes. Of the 100, 50 will investigate the crimes, 40 will gather intelligence, and 10 will be in charge of monitoring websites and social media movements. 

Brigadier General Jesus Alejandro Barrera, director of Colombia’s rural police, said, “Environmental crimes don’t just affect Colombia’s heritage … the environment is the heritage of all humanity.” According to Colombia’s Environment Minister Carlos Correa, the environment ministry will create a new website in order to keep up contact with environment defenders to protect them and their work.

Though the government only officially recognized eight killings since 2018, same as official United Nations numbers, Global Witness has documented 65 this year alone, making Colombia once again the most dangerous country for environmental defenders. The government has accused armed illegal groups of these killings. 

As both violence against environmental defenders and other crimes are large issues in Colombia, it is essential that the government finds a way to crack down on such crimes to save both human lives and the nation’s biodiversity. More protection services could be offered to environmental defenders, and even official government protection and sponsorship.

Finally, the mere 100 investigative and intelligence police may not be enough, and it could prove beneficial to have police cracking down directly on such illegally armed groups that have been killing environmental defenders. Similarly, an increased police force can also prevent trafficking and illegal mining, as demonstrated with the tens of thousands of species already seized by police this year.