Corruption as a Catalyst to Wildlife Crime

What is Corruption?

Corruption can mean different things to different people. It is the practice of obtaining power, influence, money or other personal gains through illegitimate means. This is at the expense of others. It includes dishonest or fraudulent conduct by those in power and usually involves bribery. Another definition of the vice is wrongdoing on the part of an authority. The authority acts through means that are illegitimate, immoral or incompatible with ethical standards.

According to the UN Anti-Corruption Toolkit there are many forms of corruption. These include bribery, embezzlement, theft, fraud and extortion. Abuse of discretion, favouritism and nepotism are also forms of corruption. Other forms of the vice are conduct creating or exploiting conflicting interest and improper political contribution . The more acceptable and widespread corrupt methods are in a society, the more corrupt the society is. Corruption has resulted into crises in many parts of the world, including in sectors such as conservation.

What Encourages Corruption?

There are various issues that encourage corruption including personal, cultural, institutional and organisational reasons. Personal greed leads to desire for money and power. This is often demonstrated by little or no regard to moral issues. Lack of ethics also encourages corruption. This involves a decline in personal ethics due to negative learning or exposure.

Corrupt individuals usually have no sense of public service. Public offices are a position of trust, held for public good and not for personal gain. However, you will find that some officials holding such offices gain entry through corrupt means. Further, they recieve promotions due to corrupt relationships such as nepotism, tribalism or cronyism. Such officials gain confidence in the fact that often, there is low public interest and awareness on matters of corruption. The public generally lacks courage to denounce corruption.

For this vice to thrive, the victims need to remain silent and do nothing. Most people are concerned with institutional reputations and adopt cover-up and silence as a policy. The cultural environment may also condone and encourage it. This is so especially where the public admires and lebels corrupt individuals as successful. Further, where people adopt the “everyone does it” attitude, corruption escalates. Other issues that encourage corruption are lack of transparency, inefficient regulation and controls and slow and ineffective judicial process.

How Does Corruption Contribute to Wildlife Crime?

Wildlife crime encompasses diverse and often overlapping offences. These range from illegal hunting, processing, exportation and importation of wildlife products. They also include trafficking, supplying and receiving wildlife and their products. Wildlife crime is also associated with other criminal offences. Examples are documents fraud such as fake hunting licences or export permits, money laundering, tax evasion and corruption. Wildlife trafficking is the fourth most lucrative global illegal trade after drugs, counterfeits and human trafficking.

Studies have shown that wildlife crime is high where corruption is widespread. The vice is also high where government enforcement is weak and economic opportunities are few. Corruption facilitates poaching. Further, it facilitates transactions between supply and the market. It also ensures that trafficking from one country to another takes place without disruption. Sadly, this spreads illegal money around and buys services of government individuals.

Rangers, police, judges and custom officials are all corruptible. In some instances, criminals threaten their lives if they refuse to accept bribes. The entire trafficking operation requires corrupt facilitation by public officers. This includes police manning roadblocks, customs officials atborder points, judges granting bail and producing purchased acquittals and prosecutors who ignore vital evidence.

Rangers and police corruption is fuelled by soaring levels of poverty and large amounts of money offered by criminal syndicates. Ivory and rhino horn prices have increased while the wages of rangers have remained the same. Police and rangers receive bribes to give access to the protected area, feign incompetence and manage evidence poorly. The vice is more prevalent in lower cadres because it is cheap.

Bribery and extortion of public officials involves receiving money or other benefits in order to issue permits, facilitate trafficking, falsify documents, influence or determine investigations and cases, influence process and supply of information regarding intelligence, investigation and evidence.

What Can be Done?
  • Domestication of the UN Convention Against Corruption.
  • Improve legal framework to criminalize all forms of corruption.
  • Implement policy.
  • Simplify certification systems and schemes.
  • Enhance ethics.
  • Reduce the vice in customs operations.
  • Strengthen law enforcement and case management.

Author: DidiWamukoya

1 thought on “Corruption as a Catalyst to Wildlife Crime

  1. The definition provided is almost complete. I can say that corruption is a social phenomenon because it is very complicated to fight. INTERPOL states that it is universal, that its impact is much greater in developing countries ( Here, therefore , there are concepts such as poverty and governance that emerge.
    Personally, I prefer to classify corruption into 2 main categories: active corruption
    (on the supply side) and passive corruption (on the demand side). Other types of corruption such as grand corruption (often observed in customs, public procurement, political activities, cross-border crimes, etc.) & petty corruption; public and private corruption; traditional and not, are an integral part of active and passive corruption. That said, on how corruption contributes to wildlife crime, it contributes the same way it does to other forms of crime as well given their level of severity. Regarding the means of combat, repression alone is not enough. What is needed above all is political will, accompanied by other actions such as raising awareness for a change in mentalities, good governance, rigor in the management of public affairs, significant improvement in the standard of living population, among others.

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