Wildlife Crime

ICCWC considers ‘wildlife’ to include all wild fauna and flora, including animals, birds and fish, as well as timber and non-timber forest products. ‘Wildlife crime’ refers to the taking, trading (supplying, selling or trafficking), importing, exporting, processing, possessing, obtaining and consumption of wild fauna and flora, including timber and other forest products, in contravention of national or international law.

Wildlife crime is serious

Wildlife and forest crime has become a serious threat to the security, political stability, economy, natural resources and cultural heritage of many countries and regions. It threatens the survival of some of the world’s most charismatic species, as well as many lesser-known species. Illicit wildlife trafficking can destroy the natural resources on which national economies and livelihoods depend, and undermine efforts to eliminate poverty and develop sustainable economic opportunities for rural communities. 

There is considerable evidence demonstrating the involvement of organized networks in the harvesting, processing, smuggling and trade of wildlife and wildlife products through sophisticated techniques spanning across national boundaries and continents. In addition, fraud, counterfeiting, money-laundering, violence and corruption are often closely linked with various forms of wildlife crime.

Global efforts to combat illegal wildlife trade 

The need to tackle the illegal trade in wildllife has gained considerable attention in recent years. The international community is highly concerned with the dire socio-economic, environmental and security consequences that can flow from wildlife crime. 

A diverse range of high-level events and initiatives acknowledging the threats posed by illegal wildlife trade and calling for enhanced support to combat these crimes have taken place at global, regional and national levels since 2012. 

What are the challenges to effective law enforcement?

National wildlife law enforcement agencies face many challenges including in addreessing wildlife crime: inadequate legislation; lack of equipment; limited training; difficulty accessing modern enforcement tools like intelligence-gathering and analytical and forensic science support; poor governance; and a limited appreciation among prosecutors and the judiciary of the seriousness of wildlife crime. Special investigative techniques, such as ‘following the money’ as used by Finacial Intellegience Units are often under-utilised in wildlife crime investigations. Wildlife law enforcement officers also often lack parity with their counterparts in Customs and Police services, and due to the diverse nature of wildlife crime, may be ill-prepared to effectively respond to the challenges of wildllfie crime. 

Poorly targeted and misdirected wildlife law enforcement can place undue burdens on poor rural people and local communities and can inadvertently weaken badly needed support for law enforcement and for compliance with the needs for sound natural resource management. As with other forms of crime, wildlife law enforcement needs to be conducted in accordance with national requirements for due process and with respect for human rights, public safety, and the rights of the accused.