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.
In addition to harming wildlife species, wildlife trafficking undermines local livelihoods and weakens impoverished rural economies further. As highlighted by the ground-breaking 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. Wildlife trafficking also promotes the spread of zoonotic diseases, as witnessed with the spread of COVID-19 (coronavirus).
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 February 2016, the European Commission adopted an 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. The plan has three main components – greater enforcement, better cooperation, and more effective prevention. The Action Plan is to be implemented jointly by the EU (Commission services, EEAS, Europol, Eurojust) and its Member States until 2020.
WCS strongly supports this key initiative by the EU to combat wildlife trafficking and we look forward to continuing collaborating on this issue. For more information about WCS’ work on wildlife trafficking, please click here.