Fighting Corruption a leading enabler of wildlife crime and trafficking

corruption: an issue at the heart of wildlife crime

Recent years have seen greater recognition of the far-reaching impacts of wildlife crime on governance, economic development, income generation and national security.

Tackling wildlife crime has been cemented into international development goals such as the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and recognised by the United Nations in a strong new Resolution in 2017, and linked directly to corruption and illicit financial flows. Throughout illegal wildlife trade supply chains, corruption is repeatedly an enabling factor that fans the flames of wildlife crime.

Nick Ahlers, Africa Programme Director

Corruption is one of the greatest challenges facing wildlife conservation today, facilitating poaching and illegal trade across continents

Nick Ahlers, Africa Programme Director

Tackling corruption related to wildlife crime is an international priority—but corruption in wildlife crime is a complex problem and is still relatively poorly understood. This briefing gives a short introduction to the subject and outlines some of the promising strategies WWF and partners U4  Anti-corruption Resource Centre, and TRAFFIC are exploring.

download the briefing paper

The joint TRAFFIC and WWF Wildlife Crime Initiative provided a practical framework for understanding corruption and why it is a problem for wildlife conservation, and for initiating processes that can reduce wildlife-related corruption.

Explore an overview in the Corruption in Wildlife Conservation primer.

download the primer

wildlife corruption in context

Corruption enabling poaching and illegal wildlife trade has been a threat to wildlife conservation for many years, permeating departments from (wildlife) law enforcement and border agencies, to private sector workers and government officials.

The issue has gained steady global attention, with recent landmark commitments such as those made by the G20 leaders in 2017, marking the scaling up of international efforts to address the issue. The 2018 London Conference, bringing together government leaders from across the world, has also embedded the fight against corruption in wildlife trade as a major priority.

Although such high-level traction is promising, translating strong words into tangible action is far more complex, particularly given the far-reaching motivations behind corruption. This involves addressing the enabling issues behind bribery and extortion, as well as wider factors including financial crime and ineffective legislation. In many source countries, wildlife protection and management services are woefully under-equipped and under-paid, making the opportunity to supplement ones income through illicit behaviour particularly alluring. The same issues can make successfully detecting corruption an ongoing enforcement challenge.

There are various tools available to combat such problems, including international conventions against corruption, legislation that criminalises and requires the penalization of corrupt activities, guidelines on anti-corruption laws and improving transparency, anti-corruption toolkits and training materials. It is essential that such approaches be prioritised in countries affected by corruption to avoid the issue further impacting on already stretched resources and threatened wildlife.