What is Wildlife Trafficking and Illicit Trade?

The AMLA is beginning to reach out to numerous nonprofit and governmental organizations, national and international, that are at the forefront of battling wildlife trafficking and the illicit trade of wildlife, wildlife products, and flora and fauna. We feel it is very important to do as much as we can in this effort in order to conserve and sustain biological and human impacts that are associated with wildlife crimes. Along with the environmental impacts, there are major economic impacts as well. Financially speaking, hundreds of billions of dollars per year are generated from illegal wildlife poaching and trade, illegal logging, and the poaching of fisheries and marine resources. Wildlife trade has no borders, and as long as the human footprint keeps expanding so will the crimes that correlate with the depletion of the natural resources that all humans and animals rely upon on a daily basis.

The purpose of this publication is to introduce the major components of wildlife trafficking and illicit trade, as well as the impacts that these activities have on the environment along with global and local societies and their economies. The AMLA wishes to show how its VISION coincides with these issues, and hopes to exemplify its reasoning for involvement on the financial and economic side of these ongoing problems.

What is Wildlife Trade?

Wildlife trade is any sale or exchange of wild animal and plant resources by people. This can involve live animals and plants or a diverse range of products needed or prized by humans—including skins, medicinal ingredients, tourist curios, timber, fish and other food products. Most wildlife trade is probably within national borders, but there is a large volume of wildlife in trade internationally.

Why?

There are many reasons why wildlife is traded, including:

  • food—fruits, mushrooms, nuts, leaves and tubers, are particular important resources in sustaining livelihoods in many rural areas. Wild animals (including fish) contribute at least a fifth of the animal protein in rural diets in more than 60 countries. A TRAFFIC study demonstrated reliance on wild meat is growing in Eastern and Southern Africa in response to increased human populations and poverty.
  • fuel—trees and plants are an important source of fuel for cooking and heating, especially in rural areas
  • fodder—considered very important non-wood forest products in arid regions of Asia and Africa
  • building materials—for example, timber for furniture and housing to ingredients in manufacturing processes, such as gums and resins
  • clothing and ornaments—leather, furs, feathers etc.
  • sport—from falconry to trophy hunting
  • healthcare—everything from herbal remedies, traditional medicines to ingredients for industrial pharmaceuticals. An estimated 80 % of the world’s population are said to rely for primary health care on traditional medicines
  • religion—many animals and plants or derivatives are used for religious purposes
  • collections—many wildlife specimens and curios are collected by museums and private individuals

The primary motivating factor for wildlife traffickers is economic. This can range from small scale local income generation to major profit-oriented business, such as marine fisheries and logging companies.

Between collectors of wildlife and the ultimate users, any number of middlemen may be involved in the wildlife trade, including specialists involved in storage, handling, transport, manufacturing, industrial production, marketing, and the export and retail businesses. 

Environmental and Social Problems

As human populations have grown, so has the demand for wildlife. People in developed countries have become used to a lifestyle which fuels demand for wildlife; they expect to have access to a variety of seafood, leather goods, timbers, medicinal ingredients, textiles etc. Conversely, extreme poverty of others means they regard wildlife as a means to meet their short-term needs and will trade it for whatever they can get.

Over-exploitation is a major concern:

  • Wildlife is vital to a high proportion of the world’s population. People depend directly on wildlife for consumption and as a way of earning cash. However, irresponsible wildlife trade is threatening this resource, and those most affected tend to be the poorest people, in developing nations.
  • Wildlife trade causes additional problems. The species traded are often already highly threatened and in danger of extinction, conditions under which wildlife is transport are often appalling, operators are unscrupulous and do not care how they damage the environment (for example they use cyanide to kill fish, or log in protected areas; illegal trade undermines nations’ efforts to manage their natural resources sustainably and causes massive economic losses in lost earnings. It is often said that illegal wildlife trade is the third most valuable illicit commerce behind drugs and arms.
  • Introducing invasive species that prey upon, or out compete native species. Invasive species are a major cause of recent extinctions. Wildlife traders have purposely introduced many invasive species, such as American Mink, Red-eared Terrapin and many plant species.

Economic Problems

Wildlife crimes pose many economical problems on a local and regional level. Indigenous peoples directly affected by the exploitation of their natural resources, that they may use for survival or income, may endure socioeconomic hardships. They will often times resort to the very peoples that are exploiting their resources for financial relief. On a regional level, this raises crime and poverty levels, and compromises the overall safety and well being of the region’s communities. As a result, the revenue related to wildlife crimes are distributed among other regions of the world which funds more violent crimes and global terrorism.

Response and Solutions

Organizations

There are a many organizations throughout countries all over the world that are at the forefront of battling wildlife crimes. With major organizations such as the International Consortium on Combating Wildlife Crime (ICCWC), the World Customs Organization (WCO), the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) working in conjunction with INTERPOL, the F.B.I, and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, there are many agencies and officers working together to combat wildlife crimes.

Laws

The United States, as well as numerous other countries, has instilled branches and sectors of their government to build laws and penalties for such crimes. Though legislation is a key to control wildlife trade, these laws need to be accepted, practical, and understood in order for them to be successful.

Education

Educating the general public, lawmakers, and individuals in the wildlife trade with reliable and current information regarding environmental impacts, sustainability, and penalties is a very important step towards reducing environmental harm.

For those interested in Wildlife Trafficking, we encourage you to visit these organizations and become aware of the problems they face and the research being done to resolve wildlife crime issues.

Please donate to the cause if possible, and help to educate others by making them aware of this ever present issue that we face today.

 

United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC)

https://www.unodc.org/unodc/en/wildlife-and-forest-crime/index.html

International Criminal Police Organization (INTERPOL) https://www.interpol.int/

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service  https://www.fws.gov/

International Wildlife Crimestoppers (IWC) http://wildlifecrimestoppers.org/

Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) https://cites.org/

World Wildlife Fund (WWF) https://www.worldwildlife.org/

The Nature Conservancy https://www.nature.org/?intc=nature.tnav.logo