Tiger footage credit: Balendu Singh

Wildlife crime

Illegal wildlife trade remains a lucrative business with an estimated value of £15 billion per year and is often orchestrated by highly organised, transnational criminal networks.

Demand for products such as elephant ivory, tiger skins and pangolin scales creates a powerful financial incentive for poaching and smuggling which drastically undermines ongoing conservation efforts. That demand is driven by the desire for medicinal products or investment in luxury trinkets and is often sustained by perverse government policies in key domestic markets around the world.

As human development continues to accelerate globally, the unsustainable exploitation of vulnerable animal and plant species is putting unprecedented pressure on our planet’s wildlife.

  • $15

    billion, the estimated value of the Illegal Wildlife Trade

  • 20,000

    elephants are killed every year by poachers

  • 2030

    the minimum number of tigers seized in trade since the year 2000

One of the challenges in combating wildlife crime is the lack of a strong criminal justice response, exacerbated by corruption and lack of resources in combatting such crime.

In recognition of this challenge, governments have national legislation to regulate, and in some countries prohibit, the possession, killing, sale and transport of native wildlife, often with different levels of protection for species that are more threatened than others. Violation of wildlife specific legislation can range from being considered an administrative offence to a criminal one i.e. wildlife crime. Prosecution of wildlife criminals under wildlife specific legislation can be complemented with charges under national criminal codes, anti-corruption, anti-money laundering and organised crime acts. Countries cannot combat wildlife crime in isolation and a transnational response is essential. Mechanisms for cooperation are available through INTERPOL, the World Customs Organisation, the UN Convention Against Transnational Organised Crime, the UN Convention Against Corruption, and various financial and transport sector task forces. Countries can also cooperate to give greater protection to wildlife under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species.