Wildlife crime is a global concern and its illicit activities encompass many sectors and industries.
The consequences of wildlife crime are far reaching, affecting not only the environment but also economies, communities and societies. Multi-sector challenges require multi-sector solutions.
During the 30th meeting of the Interpol Wildlife Crime Working Group last month, 160 participants from police, government agencies, international organisations, the transport and financial sectors, academia and social media companies gathered to review the latest environmental threats, trafficking trends and challenges in tackling criminal networks behind wildlife crime.
The meeting looked at how wildlife crime can implicate industries beyond those focussing on the environment, such as illegal trade by air, land and sea transport systems or the illicit sale of animals and wildlife products online. For the first time, representatives from these sectors were invited to offer perspectives and build relationships with law enforcement.
With participants representing 45 countries from all regions of the world, the week-long meeting was an opportunity to share viewpoints on wildlife crime and different ways of approaching potential solutions.
Highlighting the challenges of fighting wildlife crime, Interpol’s Assistant Director of Illicit Markets Daoming Zhang said: “We see animals and their parts trafficked using ships and airplanes, sold online via the Darknet and illicit profits unknowingly passed through financial institutions.
“It is clear the only way to truly eradicate these crimes and protect the world’s wildlife is by a united effort bringing together all stakeholders to develop multi-sector solutions,” he said.
Topics on the agenda included forestry crime, financial crimes associated with wildlife trafficking, challenges of transnational enforcement and operations and wildlife crime training efforts.
Case examples presented included the recent Interpol-World Customs Organisation co-ordinated Operation Thunderball. The global operation against wildlife and forestry crime resulted in the seizure of protected wildlife products including 545 kg of ivory, 1.3 tonnes of pangolin scales, 9 700 live turtles and tortoises, 604 tons of timber as well as the arrest of 600 people worldwide.
“To continue the momentum of recent years, we need to challenge the thinking about how we fight wildlife crime,” said Dylan Swain, the new Wildlife Crime Working Group chairman. “The opportunity for enforcement agencies to come together with NGOs, civil society and academia enables us to share and develop new approaches to tackling the illegal trade in wildlife.”
Some discussions were open to civil society partners to encourage engagement between all stakeholders, while others were restricted to law enforcement agencies for exchange of intelligence and case-related information.