Wildlife Crime

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. 

The deep involvement of organized crime in illegal wildlife trade has been well recognized by inter alia the UN General Assembly Resolutions (in 20152017 and 2019), which highlight the seriousness of the problem, the involvement of organized wildlife crime groups, and the need for coordinated and determined efforts to combat illicit trafficking in wildlife effectively. 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. For additional details click here

What are the challenges to effective law enforcement?

National wildlife law enforcement agencies face many challenges including in addressing 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 Financial Intelligence 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 wildlife 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.