Bill to increase penalties for killing endangered animals passes first reading in State Duma

Bill to increase penalties for killing endangered animals passes first reading in State Duma

27 May 2019

The State Duma has passed the first reading of a draft law on increasing criminal penalties for the illegal hunting of especially valuable animals and exploitation of living aquatic resources listed in the Russian Red Data Book.


The explanatory note to the draft law says there is a need to amend Article 258.1 (Illegal Hunting and Trafficking of Especially Valuable Wild Animals and Aquatic Living Resources Listed in the Red Data Book of the Russian Federation and (or) Protected by International Agreements of the Russian Federation) of the Russian Criminal Code, due to flaws in the current rules, as case law shows.


Between 2015 and 2017, 3,500 crimes under Article 258.1 of the Russian Criminal Code were recorded; over 2,000 people were brought to justice.


The document emphasises that the illegal hunting of rare animals and trafficking of their derivatives remains a large-scale problem; such crimes, as a rule, are committed by groups of people, including those who engage in conspiracy or are part of an organised group.


The draft law amends parts 3 and 3.1 of Article 258.1 of the Russian Criminal Code, and recognises groups of people who agree to commit an illegal act as offenders. In addition, parts 2 and 2.1 of Article 258.1 of the Russian Criminal Code significantly limit who can be charged with the crime and do not allow for bringing to justice people who abuse their position but are not officials (for instance, employees of nature reserves, nature sanctuaries, research organisations and hunting farms), the document reads.


In addition, the draft law will increase the penalties of forced labour and imprisonment up to four years instead of the current three years of imprisonment for the illegal hunting, possession and selling of valuable wild animals.


The document also suggests toughening the penalty for the trafficking of especially valuable animals via the media and internet from four to five years of imprisonment. The Government also proposes increasing the punishment for the illegal hunting of animals listed in the Red Data Book by abuse of position from five to six years of imprisonment.


According to State Duma Speaker Vyacheslav Volodin, if the draft law is adopted, poachers and also their accomplices will not be able to evade responsibility, because separate penalties are set out for those who are not officials that abuse their position, such as employees of nature reserves and sanctuaries, who were earlier not subject to punishment.


“These amendments to the Russian Criminal Code will allow for a more efficient investigation into crimes when rare animals on the verge of extinction are killed for money or for fun, for instance snow leopards or Amur tigers. The draft law will protect and preserve the unique wildlife of our country,” Volodin told journalists.