Doing it by the book: New resources for financial investigations of illegal wildlife trade

The Royal United Services Institute (RUSI) and EIA have launched new resources to help enforcement agencies around the world to use financial intelligence to crack down on illegal wildlife trade.

Since 2017,  RUSI and EIA have implemented a joint project to increase awareness and boost the ability of key stakeholders to disrupt criminal networks benefiting from illicit funds earned from wildlife trafficking.

Tiger skin on sale in China, with official permit

We have now jointly launched new practical resources covering best-practice in the use of financial intelligence to counter illegal trade, including a series of handbooks on the basic principles of gathering and using financial intelligence and a new 16-minute video module hosted on EIA’s online enforcement platform.

Criminals are attracted to illegal wildlife trade because it is viewed as a ‘high profit/low risk’ crime. By increasing the risk of detection and prosecution, as well as potentially confiscating the profits, financial investigations are one way to reverse this equation.

A luxury mansion in Lipuzai village, Shuidong, China – bought with the proceeds of wildlife crime (c) EIAimage

There are three main reasons for using financial investigations and intelligence in illegal wildlife trade cases:

  • to obtain compelling evidence of the crime, such as proof of payments made to transport illegal wildlife products;
  • to charge suspects with additional offences under anti-money laundering legislation, which can significantly boost the success of prosecution and length of sentencing;
  • to identify and confiscate criminal assets (such as money, property, vehicles etc purchased using the proceeds of crime), which can go a long way to neutralising the high profits associated with illegal wildlife trade.

Financial investigations are a key but still underused tool in the fight against the illegal wildlife trade. Today, there is a global consensus that this needs to change, but most countries need help rolling out these approaches.

In 2019, the Financial Action Task Force – the global anti-money laundering standard-setter – committed to a programme of work to detail best practice in countering wildlife crime.

The Kenya version of the handbooks

The RUSI/EIA interactive handbooks highlight best practice in the use of financial intelligence and are available for Kenya, Malawi, Mozambique, Tanzania, Uganda and Zambia.

In addition, we are also launching a new 16-minute video module available on a secure online enforcement platform, hosted by EIA. The platform was created by EIA in 2018 and comprises an overview film and 17 video modules of best practice enforcement approaches from around the world, available in nine languages (Cantonese, English, French, Mandarin, Portuguese, Spanish, Swahili, Thai and Vietnamese).

The new video is the 18th module in the series and is currently available in English and Portuguese.

To access these resources, please visit


• These resources have been created by the Royal United Services Institute in partnership with EIA, with funding from the UK Government through the Illegal Wildlife Trade Challenge Fund.