Countering Illegal Wildlife Trade (IWT – also referred to as wildlife trafficking)

Illegal wildlife trade is a significant problem that poses a major threat to biodiversity and conservation efforts worldwide. The trade involves the illegal hunting, capturing, and trafficking of animals and plants, including species that are endangered or threatened with extinction.

Illegal wildlife trade is a multi-billion dollar industry, making it one of the most profitable forms of organized crime globally. The trade is driven by demand for wildlife products across a number of reasons for use with traffickers motivated by substantial profit and often inadequate efforts to combat it.

The consequences of illegal wildlife trade are severe and far-reaching. It can lead to the decline or extinction of species, disrupt ecosystems, and negatively impact local communities who rely on wildlife for their livelihoods. Additionally, the trade can also be linked to other crimes such as corruption, money laundering, and terrorism.

Governments and international organizations are working to combat illegal wildlife trade through various measures such as law enforcement, public education, and conservation efforts. However, it remains a persistent and complex challenge that requires continued attention and action.

Combatting illegal wildlife trade is a complex and challenging issue that requires a multi-faceted approach involving governments, NGOs, local communities, and individuals. Here are some strategies that can help to combat illegal wildlife trade:

  1. Strengthen law enforcement: Governments must enforce strict laws and regulations against illegal wildlife trade and increase the penalties for offenders. This includes increasing funding for wildlife crime investigation and prosecution, training and equipping rangers, and ensuring that the judicial system has the capacity to prosecute wildlife criminals.
  2. Address the demand: Reducing the demand for illegal wildlife products is critical in combating the trade. This can be achieved through public awareness campaigns, targeted education programs, and engaging with consumers to promote alternatives to wildlife products.
  3. Support community conservation: In many cases, local communities are the first line of defense against illegal wildlife trade. Governments and NGOs should work with these communities to develop sustainable conservation and management practices that benefit both wildlife and local people.
  4. Use technology: Technology such as drones, GPS tracking, and forensic science can help identify, monitor and track illegal wildlife trade activities. These tools can help to increase the efficiency and effectiveness of law enforcement efforts. You can get an understanding of some of WildTiger’s use of technology HERE and as an organization we are also using tools and strategies such as investigating online trade, the use of DNA data and artificial intelligence based tactics.
  5. Promote sustainable trade: Supporting legal and sustainable trade in wildlife can provide an alternative to illegal trade, and promote conservation and livelihoods. This includes implementing effective trade regulations and certifications, and supporting community-based conservation programs that provide sustainable livelihoods.

Combating illegal wildlife trade is a long-term challenge that requires sustained effort, commitment, and cooperation from all stakeholders and support from the wider international community.

Illegal wildlife trade falls under the broader spectrum of wildlife crime. The International Consortium for Combatting Wildlife Crime (ICCWC) has created a template for collaborative efforts with the goals being to create:

a) reduced opportunity for wildlife crime;

b) increased deterrence of wildlife crime;

c) increased detection of wildlife crime;

d) increased disruption and detention of criminals; and

e) evidence-based actions, knowledge exchange and collaboration, as a basis for the achievement of the first four outcomes and to drive ICCWC’s impact.

As a non-government organization WildTiger determines its role in combatting wildlife crime based on templates and dynamics according to regional requirements using the following:

These four pillars of action (as laid out by the The Global Initiative against transnational organized crime) are used in collaboration with partners as WildTiger continues its commitment to combat wildlife crime. Currently WildTiger’s main focus is targeting traffickers who drive illegal wildlife trade, part of which is countering poaching of wildlife for the purpose of trafficking through our platform #AntiSnare with the use of LeopardEye at ground level. Strategies are not made public so as not to compromise action. The main priority is mid and high level trafficking disruption which is the key to reducing crimes against wildlife and nature in general.

Read Snapshot 2023 – Trafficking of leopard body parts still a major problem