Nature and Prevalence of Wildlife Crime

Wildlife Crime as a Threat

Wildlife crime is not scientific and therefore negatively impacts sustainability.  It threatens species survival because illegal killing/off-take is not selective in terms of age or sex of the animal being killed or captured.  It also affects species categorized as endangered by IUCN and listed in CITES appendices. Wildlife crime seriously affects wildlife species and may lead to extinction.  It also leads to ecosystem disturbance by degrading protected and areas.  Wildlife crime also harms the country’s economy, and discourages investors from working within the sector.

Elephant - They are affected by wildlife crimeA country’s efforts for protecting resources are undermined and its peace and security is affected as the proceeds of wildlife crime may sometimes finance other illegal groups such as terrorist organizations.  Wildlife crime also harms communities whose livelihoods depend on ecotourism activities.

Current Wildlife Crime Trends

Wildlife crimes include subsistence and commercial poaching as well as domestic and international illegal wildlife trade.

Subsistence poaching is basically for the pot, whereby locals poach wildlife as a source of protein.  It is common in the communities located adjacent to the protected areas.  The demand for cheap protein is making subsistence poaching grow into a commercial activity.

Criminal engage in commercial poaching to acquire wildlife trophies of higher value.  Targeted species include elephants for their ivory, rhinos for their horns and pangolins for their scales.  Commercial poaching creates poaching and trafficking syndicates which are organized and transnational in nature.  These syndicates also engage in corruption, illegal arms trade and money laundering and they undermine the rule of law and good governance. Wildlife Crime statistics

Wildlife Crime Drivers

The drivers of wildlife crime include the fact that these crimes are low risk and high profit to criminal syndicates.  There is also corruption in law enforcement agencies and moral decay among officials entrusted in safeguarding natural resources.  Poverty of the local people around protected areas also leads to an increased risk of wildlife crimes as communities struggle to make ends meet and get food for their families.

Efforts to Combat Wildlife Crime

Individual countries have put in place various efforts to combat wildlife crime.  These include enacting laws that criminalise wildlife crimes, creating specialised wildlife law enforcement agencies, building the capacities of law enforcement agencies through specialised gear and training and adopting national strategies to combat wildlife crime.  Countries are also reaching out to their neighbours for cross border cooperation especially in transboundary ecosystems.  Other efforts include cooperation with regional and international law enforcement agencies.

Challenges in Combating Wildlife Crime

Challenges include:

  • Weak legislation.
  • Poor application of laws.
  • Lack of awareness among law enforcers.
  • Insufficient collaboration, both nationally and internationally.
  • Dynamic modus operandi of wildlife poachers and traffickers.
  • Lack of appropriate technology for the detection of contraband of wildlife and wildlife products.
  • Porous national borders.
  • Inadequate resources allocated for wildlife law enforcement.
  • Rising demand of certain wildlife species and wildlife products.

Author: DidiWamukoya

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