Trafficking Modus Operandi


Criminals who are trafficking wildlife products sometimes conceal them so that law enforcers do not detect them. They pay special attention to concealing the smuggling of wildlife products to avoid legal consequences. The essence of concealment of a crime is that the criminal intent of the guilty persons is not disclosed and their actions are not perceived as illegal.

Criminals conceal the commission of the crime by concealing information and carriers. They also conceal the commission of a crime by destroying or falsifying  information. Criminals also conceal objects by mixing them with other objects or giving the object a different appearance. Further, they conceal objects by hiding them in personal items or packaging them in packets of a legal product. Another form of concealment is concealing the movement or transportation of the object. Criminals do this by using customized transport facilities such as cold storage facilities. They also use vehicles with special or hidden compartments. Sometimes, they opt to use elusive transport routes.


Another method that traffickers use to avoid detection is the alteration of the wildlife product so that it is not easily identifedl. Alteration is making any changes to the physical features of an item so that it looks different from the original. Features of an item that can be altered include the size, e.g., cutting an elephant tusk into smaller pieces. Criminals can also alter the form of an item e.g., by grinding ivory from a solid to powder. Further, they can alter the smell of the item or the colour of ther item e.g. by dying ivory black. Criminals alter illegal products to avoid detection or to add value to the product. For example, carved ivory sells for more money than raw ivory.


When trafficking wildlife products, criminals sometimes misdeclare the item to customs officials. When people import or export products, the law requires them to fill out legal documents declaring what it is that they intend to import or export out of a country. If the details about the product are not true, this becomes a misdeclaration and is a customs offense. Generally, criminals make misdeclarations to conceal transportation of restricted or prohibited goods. They also make misdeclarations to avoid payment of customs duties or avoid payment for permits or licenses. At import ports, criminals make misdeclarations to quickly clear smuggled goods.

Common misdeclarations include misdescription of goods or entry of wrong quantity. Criminals can also misdeclare goods by entering the wrong weight or value or misdeclaring the origin of the goods.

Wildlife Laundering

Wildlife laundering is an emerging method of trafficking wildlife products. This is the process by which criminals give illegally obtained wildlife products the appearance of having originated from legitimate sources. If done successfully, wildlife laundering allows the criminals to move illegally obtained wildlife products together with legally obtained wildlife products. The end game is to provide a legitimate cover for their source of income.

Like money laundering, wildlife laundering is a crime against rule of law and the economy at large. Wildlife laundering leads to other crimes such as smuggling of wildlife products and money laundering. It also leads to tax evasion, organized crime, permit fraud and corruption. Methods of wildlife laundering include disguising the source of the wildlife product. Criminals also commit wildlife laundering by moving illegally obtained wildlife products with other wildlife products that are unlikely to attract attention.

Author: DidiWamukoya

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