Illegal Wildlife Trade [IWT], commonly positioned alongside the illegal drugs and arms trade and human trafficking, is one of the fastest growing illegal markets worldwide. The clandestine character of the IWT trade, and weak controls and enforcement, make it difficult to measure the scale of the trade, though current estimates suggest it is worth between 6 and 20 billion dollars annually. Growing awareness of the widespread impacts of the IWT has led to increased international attention in recent years, evidenced by the role the United Nations, Interpol, Europol, EU and UK have played in bringing together global leaders and stakeholders to help eradicate the trade. Research suggests the IWT contributes to civil conflict, economic loss, poverty, climate change and negatively impacts on national security and stability, state authority and biodiversity and public health. In particular, the links between the IWT and organised crime and the demise of iconic species has stimulated current international debate.
This report provides an overview of a multi-method qualitative research project on the IWT in the UK, Norway, Colombia and Brazil. It identifies common and different features of the IWT in these four locations, exploring the various motivations for why people engage in the trade, the nature of the trade and types of victimisation. An overview of the response to the trade is discussed and evaluated through SWOT analysis – identifying strengths and weaknesses, and proposing suggestions for improvements. The literature review collates the salient issues addressed in relevant academic and official literature, providing a broader context for discussing the findings. The report focuses predominantly on terrestrial fauna.
Findings suggest the nature of the IWT in the UK and Norway is similar. Specifically, the type of animal victims, the cost of the trade and offender motivations are consistent. However, when the response to the trade is evaluated, variations appear. Each of the case study countries address the IWT through international convention treaties and domestic legislation and enforcement, though responses are complex and diverse and their effectiveness varies considerably. Central to these variations are levels of awareness of the serious negative consequences of the IWT, political and criminal justice system support and resources, and punishment. Additionally, the integrated role of NGOs in the enforcement process and in developing other responses in the UK contrasts starkly with the insufficient enforcement response evident in Norway, Colombia and Brazil. NGOs play an important role in the UK, Colombia and Brazil in creating awareness and preventing the trade, but are almost nonexistent as stakeholders in Norway.
A common theme from interviews in the case study countries is the importance of key personnel working to prevent and respond to the trade. Experts and practitioners alike show us that an effective response is one that is intelligence led, systematic, integrated and synergistic; they cite the importance of cooperation between enforcement agencies and NGOs and the necessity for increased prioritisation of these crimes by criminal justice systems.