Tackling illegal wildlife trade:
strengthening transnational cooperation


"...the trade in illegal wildlife has become the work of global organised crime networks, and it is making them a fortune – as much as £17 billion a year by some estimates. This is not – as some mistakenly continue to believe – a victimless crime" The Rt Hon Mark Field 

In June 2018 Wilton Park hosted Tackling illegal wildlife trade: strengthening transnational cooperation. Building on expert discussions, including our 2015 event on Wildlife crime and international security: strengthening law enforcement, this meeting sought to build on existing frameworks and identify innovative approaches to tackling illegal wildlife trade (IWT) as a serious organised crime, and steps to tackle the corruption associated with it.

The issue

The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) highlights illegal trade in wildlife as the fourth most lucrative transnational crime after drugs, arms, and human trafficking. Illegal wildlife trade is not only pushing several iconic species to the brink of extinction....

....but this organised crime, along with the associated corruption and illicit financial flows, is undermining sustainable development by depriving some of the poorest aid-dependent countries of billions of dollars-worth of resources. IWT has a detrimental impact on state institutions and governance, and fuels discontent and insecurity.

The cross-border nature of illegal hunting and trade in wildlife is not the problem of a single country or continent. The increasingly sophisticated tactics of transnational crime syndicates requires a transnational response in the form of strengthened cross-border cooperation between source, transit and destination countries.

The event

Image: Mwangi Kirubi

Day 1

Identifying the scope and scale of the crime

Discussions started by setting out the landscape of existing IWT in the context of transnational organised crime by specifically asking what trends there are, how and where criminal networks operate, and how they are financed.

Participants then went on to explore the opportunities and challenges associated with strengthening transnational cooperation and considered the recommendations that came out of the 2015 Wilton Park meeting. 


Tackling the corruption

Drawing on case studies, the first session of the day examined what lessons can be learnt from existing approaches to transnational organised crime, and what is needed in order to foster collaborative cross-border strategies. 

This was also a key question when considering the role of money, and international collaboration between governments, civil society, banks, and enforcement agencies.  

John Penrose, the Prime Minister's Anti Corruption Champion kicked off the afternoon discussions on how cross-sector collaboration can work to uncover and tackle IWT related corruption. 

The subsequent session focused on identifying practical steps forward to increase cross-sector alliances, ways to build on current activities, and identifying next steps towards the Illegal Wildlife Trade summit in October. Participants discussed roles for specific actors, how to improve collaboration between governments and the private sector, and the ways in which links can be strengthened from organisations tackling other transnational organised crimes. 

In the evening Mark Field, Minister of State for Asia and the Pacific at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, spoke to participants about the importance of tackling the illegal wildlife trade.

DAY 3 

Ways forward and recommendations

Participants reflected on discussions from the past two days....

... and looked towards next steps.

Perspectives on IWT

Image: Steve Hillebrand

What one change would improve international collaboration to tackle the criminality behind the illegal wildlife trade? 

What our participants offer their perspectives: 

 What are the next steps to #EndWildlifeCrime?

Illegal Wildlife Trade Conference: London OCTOBER 2018

The UK government is hosting an international conference on illegal wildlife trade (IWT) in London on 11 - 12 October 2018.

The 2018 London conference is an opportunity to build on previous efforts, address the underlying issues that facilitate it, and make steps to tackle this criminal trade.

Conference aims

The London conference will aim to strengthen international partnerships across borders and beyond governments focusing on 3 key themes:

 1) Tackling IWT as a serious organised crime

2) Building coalitions

3) Closing markets