Wildlife trafficking has become one of the most lucrative criminal activities and constitutes one of the most immediate threats to biodiversity in many parts of the world. Around the globe, wildlife is being bought and sold on an increasingly massive scale as pets, meat, and food, as medicine, furs, feathers, skins, and trophies. The European Union has an important role to play in addressing wildlife trafficking, as it constitutes a destination market, a hub for trafficking in transit to other parts of the world, as well as the source region for illegal trade in some species.
In addition to harming wildlife species, wildlife trafficking undermines local livelihoods and weakens impoverished rural economies further. As highlighted by the 2019 DG DEVCO study on the interaction between security and wildlife conservation in sub-Saharan Africa, wildlife trafficking weakens the rule of law, exacerbates corruption, triggers conflicts, funds organised crime syndicates, and in some cases contributes to migration flows. With the emergence and spread of zoonotic diseases, such as COVID-19, the world is also becoming acutely aware of the threat that wildlife poaching, trafficking, and trade can pose to global health and global economic security.
In November 2022, the European Commission issued a revised EU Action Plan to tackle wildlife trafficking within the EU and to strengthen the EU's role in the global fight against these illegal activities until 2027, building on the first Action Plan adopted in 2016. The revised plan has four main priorities – preventing wildlife trafficking and addressing its root causes; strengthening the legal and policy framework; enforcing regulations and policies; and strengthening the global partnership of source, consumer and transit countries. WCS strongly supports this key initiative by the EU to combat wildlife trafficking and we look forward to continuing to collaborate on this issue.
WCS has over 200 local staff in more than 30 countries dedicated to counter-wildlife trafficking who work with more than 500 government agencies and 150 local NGOs, Indigenous Peoples, local communities, and media agencies. We develop an in depth understanding of the people and places from source sites along the illicit supply chain to demand markets and design strategic interventions at key points along the supply chain where it will have the greatest impact to prevent and deter wildlife trafficking. The design and monitoring of our interventions utilise the latest behaviour science, crime science, and criminology through our partnerships with academics around the world.
WCS is implementing, among others, flagship EU-funded projects aiming to tackle the illegal wildlife trade in Latin America, Asia, and Africa. The Alliance for Wildlife and Forests is a regional action funded by the EU, aiming at enhancing civil society engagement to strengthen law enforcement and cooperation with and among authorities in Bolivia, Ecuador, Colombia, Peru, and the two tri-border areas with Brazil, to combat wildlife and timber trafficking. The Partners Against Wildlife Crime is an EU-funded action, aiming at disrupting illicit supply chains from source to market for tiger, Asian elephant, Siamese rosewood, and freshwater turtles in the Greater Mekong region, Malaysia, and China by leveraging civil society partnerships to increase the effectiveness of Government action. The EU also funded a project aiming at disrupting illicit supply chains of wildlife in Niassa Special Reserve, the largest conservation area in Mozambique.
For more information about WCS’ work on wildlife trafficking, please click here.