The European Commission to develop a Wildlife Trafficking Action Plan

Archive photo © IFAW
Wednesday, 13 May, 2015
Brussels, Belgium

The European Commission has confirmed that it will develop a wildlife trafficking action plan to join the global fight against the rampant and destructive trade in products like ivory, rhino horn, pangolin scales and tiger parts.

“It is about time that Europe got serious about playing its role in protecting the world’s biodiversity,” said Satyen Sinha, IFAW Wildlife Policy Lead. “Europe is one of the largest markets for wildlife products and an important transit point for wildlife products going from Africa to Asia.”

“Wildlife trafficking is not only a serious global environmental crime with profoundly negative impacts for endangered species protection and ecosystem stability, but it is also a real and increasing threat to national, regional and global security. Organised crime groups find wildlife trafficking attractive because of its low risks, high profits and weak penalties. Earnings can amount to well over 1000 percent return on investment and the value of some wildlife products is comparable to that of illegal narcotics,” he continued.

“Only an Action Plan of the type that exists for other serious crimes such as human trafficking, drug trafficking, and terrorism can provide the necessary tools and political and policy framework, as well as accountability, to allow Europe to play a vital role in global efforts to tackle wildlife crime adequately.”

Speaking at an event on poaching and conservation, Gael De Rotalier, Policy Officer in the environment directorate, stated that the draft action plan would include both internal EU and global dimensions of the problem.

The EU is used as both a market and a transit route for the illegal wildlife trade; with Europe accounting for around a third of all ivory seizures worldwide, with Belgium, France, Portugal and the UK acting as key transit routes. These countries along with Italy, Netherlands and Spain are noted for their frequent, small scale seizures of ivory

Globally, the vast sums of money involved and relatively low penalties, have led to the involvement of groups specialising in money laundering, financial crime, thefts and drug trafficking. The Europol OCTA report highlights that those involved in high-level drugs trafficking in Brazil, Colombia and Mexico have established a notable role in the illegal supply of endangered species to the EU and US markets. As a result, some of the concealment methods developed for drug trafficking are now used to traffic endangered species. IFAW investigations have shown that the Internet provides a simple and safe way to connect poachers, middlemen and consumers.

The magnitude and scale of this crime is having a devastating effect on biodiversity and the communities that live around them. In Africa and Asia, terrorist groups such as Al Shabab and warlords across Africa have become engaged in this crime to fund their wars and atrocities. Items such as ivory are fast becoming a 21st century blood diamond.

In April 2013, the severity of this crime was officially recognised by the UN when it categorised the illicit trade in wild flora or fauna as a “serious crime”, raising it to the same status as human trafficking and drugs trafficking.

The Commission will now prepare a draft likely to be launched in time for the Dutch Presidency of the European Union. Once the Action Plan is drafted, it must be agreed upon by Member States.

Based on Member State responses, the Action Plan will likely call for:

  • Resourcing and implementation of a Conservation Strategy for Africa – a 10 year strategy detailing priorities in the following domains: site protection of 80 Key Landscapes for Conservation, local development projects in periphery, law enforcement and capacity-building of national services, fight against illegal trafficking. - See more at:
  • The need to look more into illicit financial flows associated to wildlife trafficking, e.g. regarding money laundering;
  • The need to ensure that EU instruments/measures against organized crime can be applied to wildlife trafficking;
  • The importance of providing for a maximum imprisonment of at least four years in cases of organized wildlife crime which means recognizing it as a "serious crime" which is key for the applicability of the UN Convention against Transnational Organized Crime. At national level, this would allow for the use of essential investigative tools, such as wire tapping, covert investigations etc.;
  • The importance of controlled deliveries (allowing a shipment to arrive at a destination) as an essential tool to reach the leaders of criminal networks.

The move to tackle wildlife crime comes almost two full years after the US President Barack Obama issued an executive order to tackle wildlife crime including the establishment of a Presidential Task Force on the subject.

Two weeks ago 22 African leaders gathered in the Brazzaville under the auspices of UNEP to create a pan-African strategy to confront the poaching crisis.

About IFAW

Founded in 1969, IFAW rescues and protects animals around the world. With projects in more than 40 countries, IFAW rescues individual animals, works to prevent cruelty to animals, and advocates for the protection of wildlife and habitats. For more information, visit Follow us on Facebook and Twitter. Photos are available at

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Azzedine Downes,IFAW President and CEO
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Céline Sissler-Bienvenu, Director, France and Francophone Africa
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Pauline Verheij, Program Manager, Wildlife Crime
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Rikkert Reijnen, Program Director, Wildlife Crime
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Staci McLennan, Director, EU Office
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Vivek Menon, Director of IFAW partner, Wildlife Trust of India
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