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. 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.
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. The Alliance for Wildlife and Forests is a regional action funded by the EU and implemented by WCS and WWF, 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 implemented through a consortium of 12 international and national partner organizations led by WCS, 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. For more information about WCS’ work on wildlife trafficking, please click here.
WCS EU response to the public consultation to revise the EU Environmental Crime Directive (May 2021)