Decoding wildlife crime: 3 stories you need to read

© Charlie Shoemaker

Rangers feed orphaned elephants at the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust in Kenya. (© Charlie Shoemaker)

Editor’s note: Wildlife trafficking is wiping out Earth’s most iconic species, funding organized crime and threatening our economic and global security. Despite the aggressive efforts of governments and international bodies such as Interpol to address wildlife crime at all levels, it remains one of the most lucrative criminal activities in the world. According to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species, the illegal wildlife trade is worth roughly US$ 20 billion a year, placing it just under guns, drugs and human trafficking.

What makes this a “high-profit low-risk crime” — and why is it so hard to fight? Here, Human Nature breaks down common misconceptions about wildlife crime, examines the challenges the international community faces in fighting it, and identifies potential solutions — including how you can help. 

tiger in India1.5 things you didn’t know about wildlife trafficking

Protecting species also means protecting national security  wildlife crime has been linked to terrorist organizations such as al-Shabab. Countries benefit hugely from the protection of iconic species: The loss to tourism of a single elephant over its lifetime is more than US$ 1.6 million.


Park ranger in Rwanda2. Why aren’t we doing more to protect our rangers?

Since 2003, more than 1,000 wildlife rangers have been killed in the line of duty. Their job is incredibly tough and dangerousthey are the “boots on the ground” standing between poachers and their prey. And they need more support and resources to do their jobs effectively.


Gibbon3. In wildlife trafficking, organized crime still a step ahead

For organized crime syndicates, wildlife crime complements their other illicit activities, such as weapons trafficking. Without a multi-pronged approach involving communities, countries and inter-governmental groups, organized crime will always be ahead.


The illegal wildlife trade is decimating our most iconic species. Get the latest news on how we’re fighting back.


Sophie Bertazzo is a senior editor for Conservation International.

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