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