As the human population grows, so may the demand for wildlife. People in some countries are used to lifestyles which fuel demand for wildlife; they expect access to a variety of seafood, leather goods, timbers, medicinal ingredients and textiles. In fact, the Internet is a major portal for illegal wildlife trade. The trade is diverse, ranging from live animals and plants to a vast array of wildlife products derived from them. Wildlife traders have even purposely introduced many invasive species, such as American Mink, Red-eared Terrapin and many plant species, leading to a surge in recent extinctions. Wildlife trade is particularly threatened in some parts of the world known as "wildlife trade hotspots". These can be found in the areas around China's borders, trade hubs in East/Southern Africa and Southeast Asia, the eastern borders of the European Union, some markets in Mexico, parts of the Caribbean, parts of Indonesia and New Guinea, and the Solomon Islands.
In addition to its negative environmental impact, the illegal trade in endangered animals and their parts fuels conflicts, corruption and violence. In the Democratic Republic of Congo, Kenya and Chad, for instance, many park rangers have been killed by poachers hunting for elephant tusks, rhinoceros horns and leopard skins. The revenue from this illegal trade as well as the trade in live animals such as snakes, monkeys and big cats is used to finance militias, including the Janjaweed in Darfur. Illegal wildlife trade is a low risk business with high returns. Corruption, toothless laws, weak judicial systems and light sentences encourage criminal networks to continue plundering wildlife with little regard to consequences. Even when caught, only poor, local poachers, are implicated, allowing the real masterminds and their network to get away scot-free and remain operational with the ability to continue their trade.
In 2008, the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) conducted a survey into Internet trade, which spanned three months and involved investigations into 183 publicly accessible websites in 11 countries, examining trade in wildlife products and live animals. The resulting report, ‘Killing with Keystrokes: An Investigation of the Illegal Wildlife Trade on the World Wide Web’, registered an astounding 7,122 online auctions, advertisements and classifieds, with an advertised value of USD 3.87 million. Of particular interest was ivory as a major area for trade, as it represented more than 73% of the activities monitored.
Annually, international wildlife trade generates billions of dollars from hundreds of millions of plant and animal specimens. Therefore, the primary motivating factor for wildlife traders lies with the potential financial gains, whether it be small scale local income generation or major profit generation by businesses, such as those observed in marine fisheries and logging companies. Between collectors of wildlife and the ultimate users, any number of middlemen may be involved in the wildlife trade, including specialists involved in storage, handling, transport, manufacturing, industrial production, marketing, and the export and retail businesses.
 “Illegal Wildlife Trade: Causes”, WWF, accessed August 8, 2013, http://worldwildlife.org/threats/illegal-wildlife-trade (hereinafter “WWF”)
 “What is CITES?”, CITES, accessed August 8, 2013, http://www.cites.org/eng/disc/what.php
 “Wildlife trade: what is it?”, TRAFFIC, accessed August 8, 2013, http://www.traffic.org/trade/ (hereinafter “TRAFFIC”).
 See Criminal Nature: The Global Security Implications of the Illegal Wildlife Trade (June 2013), IFAW, http://www.ifaw.org/sites/default/files/ifaw-criminal-nature-2013-low-res_0.pdf
 Killing with Keystrokes 2.0: IFAW’s investigation into the European online ivory trade, IFAW, p 4, accessed December 16, 2013, http://www.ifaw.org/sites/default/files/FINAL%20Killing%20with%20Keystrokes%202.0%20report%202011.pdf.
Not all wildlife species in trade are necessarily endangered, but an agreement to ensure the sustainability of the trade is necessary in order to safeguard these resources for the future. The effort to regulate trade in wild animals and plants requires international cooperation simply because of the cross-border element of the trade itself and to safeguard certain species from over-exploitation. The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) was conceived in the spirit of such international cooperation. To date, it confers varying degrees of protection to more than 30,000 species of animals and plants, regardless of whether they traded as live specimens, fur coats or dried herbs.
CITES was drafted following a resolution adopted in 1963 at a meeting of members of the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). The final text of the Convention was agreed at a meeting of representatives of 80 countries in Washington, D.C., the United States of America, on 3 March 1973. CITES entered into force on 1 July 1975.
In November 2010, recognising the importance of international cooperation, the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) joined forces with four international organisations - the Secretariat of CITES, INTERPOL, the World Customs Organization (WCO) and the World Bank - to form the International Consortium on Combating Wildlife Crime (ICCWC). The consortium aims to bring coordinated support to governments, national wildlife and forest law enforcement agencies and sub-regional networks who objective is to protect the world's natural resources from criminal exploitation. In addition, being cognizant of the drivers of wildlife and forest crime, ICCWC promotes a comprehensive approach that includes addressing sustainable natural resource management and livelihood opportunities. The CITES Secretariat is appointed as chair of the consortium.
In partnership with ICCWC, UNODC developed the Wildlife and Forest Crime Analytic Toolkit, which is now available for first pilot studies. The Toolkit aids governments in identifying challenges and strengthen their criminal justice responses to wildlife and forest crime. The Toolkit is a technical resource to assist government officials in wildlife and forestry administration and customs. It also assists other relevant agencies to conduct a comprehensive analysis of the strengths and weaknesses of preventive and criminal justice responses and other measures related to the protection and monitoring of wildlife and forest products.
Since the founding of ICCWC, the following joint activities have been executed within the framework of the Consortium:
- the "Ivory and Rhinoceros Enforcement Task Force Meeting", held in Nairobi in May 2011 and attended by high-level law enforcement officers representing wildlife authorities, Customs, investigations, national parks, police and enforcement agencies from 12 countries, served to exchange law enforcement intelligence and to develop strategies for combating illegal trade in the two pachyderms;
- a senior-level seminar for Police and Customs officers of the Tiger Range States (TRSs) was convened from 13 to 14 February 2012 in Bangkok, Thailand. Being one of ICCWC's initial collaborative efforts in delivering technical assistance in support of law enforcement as related to wildlife trafficking, the seminar was attended by representatives from the 13 Tiger range states (Bangladesh, Bhutan, Cambodia, China, India, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, Nepal, Russia, Thailand and Vietnam) as well as representatives from all ICCWCpartners; and
- the Workshop on “Establishing a Network of Controlled Delivery Units for Forest and Wildlife Law Enforcement” in Shanghai, China, from 7 to 9 December 2011 brought together 50 participants from 18 African and Asian countries (officials from the police, Customs or judiciary). The workshop covered forest and wildlife crime and law enforcement in China, global wildlife and timber smuggling routes, wildlife and timber methods of detection, controlled delivery techniques (including financial aspects), prosecution, as well as group activities aimed at building a network of practitioners. A follow-up report will monitor participants' future collaboration and possible conduct of controlled delivery operations.
Besides being part of the ICCWC, INTERPOL initiates and leads a number of projects under its Environmental Crime Programme to combat the poaching, trafficking, or possession of legally protected flora and fauna. Together with IFAW, INTERPOL has formed a formal framework for cooperation, in particular on combating crime related to the illegal killing and trafficking of elephants, rhinoceroses and tigers through regional and global operations. Project Web, an Investigation into the Ivory Trade over the Internetwithin the European Union, was launched by INTERPOL following studies by IFAW, which concluded that elephant ivory is the most widely traded wildlife product over the Internet. Project Web provided an initial snapshot and insight from a law enforcement perspective into the drivers, scale, nature, and involved entities of the illegal trade in ivory over the Internet. The report also demonstrated that the enforcement of this electronic trade is still in its infancy but presents new challenges.
The INTERPOL Wildlife Crime Working Group supports the Environmental Compliance and Enforcement Committee in its function. The Working Group provides a platform for specialised criminal investigators worldwide to work on project-based activities on an international level. The objective is to identify ways and develop methods to better the flow and exchange of information amongst wildlife enforcement agencies, INTERPOL National Central Bureaus and the INTERPOL General Secretariat.
Besides the Wildlife Crime Working Group, INTERPOL initiated two important projects to combat illegal wildlife trade: Project Predator and Project Wisdom. The first project aims to support and enhance the governance and law enforcement capacity for the conservation of Asian big cats. The second project intends to improve wildlife law enforcement in Africa, speciﬁcally targeting illegal trade in elephant ivory and rhinoceros horn.
The Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) emanated from the world community's growing commitment to sustainable development.  It introduced a new step forward in the conservation of biological diversity, the sustainable use of its components and the fair and equitable sharing of benefits arising from the use of genetic resources. It has three main objectives:
- the conservation of biological diversity;
- the sustainable use of the components of biological diversity; and
- the fair and equitable sharing of the benefits arising out of the utilization of genetic resources.
The CBD entered into force on 29 December 1993.
 “What is CITES?”, CITES, accessed August 8, 2013, http://www.cites.org/eng/disc/what.php
 “Heads of UNODC and CITES urge wildlife and forest offences to be treated as serious transnational organised crimes”, CITES, accessed August 8, 2014, http://www.cites.org/eng/news/pr/2013/20130423_CCPCJ.php
 Technical assistance provided to States in the application of the United Nations Convention against Transnational Organised Crime to new forms and dimensions of transnational organised crime (Report of the Secretariat 5 July 2012), UNODC, accessed August 9, 2013, http://www.unodc.org/documents/treaties/organized_crime/COP6/CTOC_COP_2012_7/CTOC_COP_2012_7_E.pdf (hereinafter “UNODC”).
 “ICCWC News”, UNODC, accessed August 8, 2014, https://www.unodc.org/unodc/en/wildlife-and-forest-crime/highlights.html
 “IFAW and INTERPOL at the Front Lines of the War on Ivory and Wildlife Trafficking” (Press release May 22, 2013), IFAW, accessed December 23, 2013, http://www.ifaw.org/united-states/news/ifaw-and-interpol-front-lines-war-ivory-and-wildlife-trafficking
 “Project WEB: An investigation into the ivory trade over the internet within the European Union”, IFAW, accessed December 23, 2013, http://www.ifaw.org/australia/resource-centre/project-web-investigation-ivory-trade-over-internet-within-european-union
 “Wildlife Crime: Written evidence submitted by INTERPOL”, INTERPOL, accessed December 23, 2013, http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201012/cmselect/cmenvaud/writev/1740/wild17.htm
 “History of the Convention”, CBD, accessed December 23, 2013, http://www.cbd.int/history/
 Nagoya Protocol on Access to Genetic Resources and the Fair and Equitable Sharing of Benefits arising from their Utilisation to the Convention on Biological Diversity, CBD, accessed December 23, 2013, http://www.cbd.int/abs/doc/protocol/nagoya-protocol-en.pdf
Featured International Institutions
Featured International Initiatives
Featured International Instruments
The 28 Member States of the European Union (EU) is one of the three largest wildlife consumer markets in the world besides the USA and Japan. Therefore, in December 2006, EU Environment Ministers formally recognised the need for EU assistance in halting the loss of biodiversity and sustainable use of wildlife in developing countries and the effective implementation of the CITES Convention by calling on an EU Action Plan. Subsequently in June the following year, the European Commission (EC) launched an EU Enforcement Action Plan to improve wildlife trade enforcement within the EU and in countries where the trade originates. A series of measures were introduced to Member States to enhance their efforts to combat illegal trade, including adopting national action plans for enforcement, imposing sufficiently high penalties for wildlife trade offences and using risk and intelligence assessments to detect illegal and smuggled wildlife products. Increased public awareness about the negative impacts of illegal wildlife trade and the need for greater co-operation and exchange of information within and between Member States as well as with third countries and relevant international organizations (e.g. INTERPOL and WCO) are key to combat illegal trade.
Due to the European Single Market and the absence of systematic border controls within the EU, the provisions of CITES have to be implemented uniformly in all EU Member States. CITES is implemented in the EU through a set of Regulations known as the EU Wildlife Trade Regulations. Currently these are Council Regulation (EC) No 338/97 on the protection of species of wild fauna and flora by regulating trade therein (the Basic Regulation), Commission Regulation (EC) No 865/2006 (as amended by Commission Regulation (EC) No 100/2008, Commission Regulation (EU) No 791/2012 and Commission Implementing Regulation (EU) No 792/2012) laying down detailed rules concerning the implementation of Council Regulation (EC) No 338/97 (the Implementing Regulation), and Commission Implementing Regulation (EU) No 792/2012 of 23 August 2012 laying down rules for the design of permits, certificates and other documents provided for in Council Regulation (EC) No 338/97 on the protection of species of wild fauna and flora by regulating the trade therein and amending Regulation (EC) No 865/2006 (the Permit Regulation). In addition to these three Regulations, a Suspensions Regulation is in place to suspend the introduction into the EU of particular species from certain countries.
Although the EU Wildlife Trade Regulations are directly applicable in all EU Member States, the necessary enforcement provisions must still be transferred into national legislation and supplemented with national laws, as these are matters that remain under the sovereignty of each Member State. Member States must ensure that infractions are punished in an appropriate manner. 
 “TRAFFIC: Our Work”, TRAFFIC, accessed August 9, 2013, http://www.traffic.org/eu-wildlife-trade/ (hereinafter “TRAFFIC”).
 See Commission Recommendation of 13 June 2007 identifying a set of actions for the enforcement of Council Regulation (EC) No. 338/97 on the protection of species of wild fauna and flora by regulating trade therein.
 “EU Wildlife Trade Legislation”, European Commission, accessed August 8, 2014, http://ec.europa.eu/environment/cites/legislation_en.htm
 “EU Wildlife Trade Legislation”, European Commission, accessed August 9, 2013, http://ec.europa.eu/environment/cites/legislation_en.htm (hereinafter “EC on Wildlife Trade”)
 See Commission Implementing Regulation (EU) No 578/2013 of 17 June 2013 suspending the introduction into the Union of specimens of certain species of wild fauna and flora.
 EC on Wildlife Trade.
Featured EU Institutions
Featured EU Initiatives
Featured EU Instruments
Directive 92/43/EEC of 21 May 1992 on the conservation of natural habitats and of wild fauna and flora
Directive 2009/147/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 30 November 2009 on the conservation of wild birds
Recommendation of 13 June 2007 identifying a set of actions for the enforcement of Council Regulation (EC) No 338/97 on the protection of species of wild fauna and flora by regulating trade therein
Council Regulation (EC) No 338/97 of 9 December 1996 on the protection of species of wild fauna and flora by regulating trade therein
Commission Implementing Regulation (EU) No 578/2013 of 17 June 2013 suspending the introduction into the Union of specimens of certain species of wild fauna and flora
Regulation No 792/2012 of 23 August 2012 laying down rules for the design of permits, certificates and other documents provided for in Council Regulation (EC) No 338/97 on the protection of species of wild fauna and flora by regulating trade therein and amending Commission Regulation (EC) No 865/2006
Regulation No 865/2006 of 4 May 2006 (as amended by Commission Regulation (EC) No 100/2008, Commission Regulation (EU) No 791/2012 and Commission Implementing Regulation (EU) No 792/2012) laying down detailed rules concerning the implementation of Council Regulation (EC) No 338/97 on the protection of species of wild fauna and flora by regulating trade therein
TRAFFIC, the wildlife trade monitoring network, explores and activates solutions to the problems brought about by illegal and unsustainable wildlife trade. Its aim is to encourage sustainability by presenting decision-makers, traders and others involved in wildlife trade with reliable information about the environmental damage irresponsible trade can cause and subsequently providing guidance on how to counteract it. Legislation is one of the key methods to control wildlife trade but in order to be successful, laws need to be widely understood, accepted and practical to implement. A big part of TRAFFIC's programme is working closely with law makers, law enforcers and the judiciary to ensure that the appropriate laws are in place, are fully understood by the enforcers and perpetrators receive appropriate penalties.
U.S. Lacey Act
The U.S. Lacey Act is an example primary legislation for wildlife preservation and forest conservation. Passed in 1900, the Lacey Act establishes that it is a federal crime to poach game in one state with the purpose of selling the bounty in another. The Act was introduced by Iowa Congressman John Lacey over a century ago, the Lacey Act and has been revised several times over the century turning it into one of the broadest and most comprehensive policies designed to combat wildlife crime.
In 2008, the U.S. Congress approved a new amendment to the Lacey Act, adding illegal logging as a federal crime. As a consequence, it created dramatic changes in the then (still) heavily unregulated global timber industry. This led to systemic shifts in the practices of importers, manufacturers, and timber companies within both the U.S. and around the world.
Featured Other Instrument
U.S. Lacey Act of 1900
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