In 2008, the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) embarked on an effort to fully understand the true nature of wildlife crime around the world. What we found was shocking, and we chronicled our findings in a report becoming one of the first organisations to assert that the illicit trade in wildlife could be a genuine and increasing threat to national and global security.
Since that time, the international trade in endangered species has only grown, making the threat all the more real and menacing. Elephants were killed for their ivory in record numbers in 2011 and 2012, and some rhinoceros subspecies have become extinct or are on the verge of extinction. Rangers are regularly killed by poachers, and some of the world’s poorest countries continue to see their wildlife decimated for the black market in wild animals and parts. Meanwhile, the profits realised from the illegal trade in wildlife have surged to levels once reserved for legally traded precious metals. Criminal and violent groups around the world have become the main actors exploiting this global industry.
The world community is taking notice. In November 2012, then Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said that illegal wildlife trade must be addressed at every level of the international community and declared illegal wildlife trade a national security issue. In May 2013, the UN Commission on Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice agreed to a resolution calling on the nations of the world to consider wildlife and forest crime a serious form of organised crime. Also in a May 2013 report to the United Nations Security Council, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon highlighted the potential link between poaching and other transnational organised criminal activities, including terrorism.
IFAW has updated Criminal Nature in response to the increasingly urgent need to elevate responses to wildlife crime; to enhance our understanding of the global security implications of the illegal wildlife trade; and to highlight the known and potential links among poaching, illegal wildlife trade, and transnational organised criminal activities.
This updated report contains new evidence about the gravity of the threat that illegal wildlife trade and the poaching crisis represent to security, to wildlife, and to people. It also examines illegal wildlife trade links to violence, radicalism, organised crime, corruption, fraud, and terror—highlighting signs that income from poaching helps fund violent activities by state and nonstate actors.
Recommendations to combat illegal wildlife trade
IFAW makes the following recommendations to governments, multilateral institutions, intergovernmental organisations, and non-governmental organisations:
- Elevate wildlife crime to the level of other serious international organised crimes, such as human trafficking and the drug trade, that pose significant threats to global security and development;
- Strengthen policies and legal frameworks, increase law enforcement capacity, and develop effective judicial systems in order to better combat wildlife crime at the local, national, and international levels;
- Develop and implement regional wildlife enforcement strategies and networks that are interconnected through a global coordinating mechanism; and
- Address the growing demand for and availability of wildlife products through targeted consumer awareness and demand-reduction initiatives in key consumer states.