Written by Samantha Francis on Monday June 14, 2021
Sammi Francis, currently undertaking a junior content producer apprenticeship with us takes a look at the global issue of the illegal wildlife trade.
Wildlife trafficking is a big issue. We’re not just talking about endangered animals from Africa being poached and sold on the black market. There are many other ways that wildlife trafficking can be a part of your life, without you even realising it. Products from animals, like ivory, might be in your jewellery or an item of clothing you bought on holiday. Did you see the programme Tiger King? Your own neighbour could have an exotic pet that was taken from their natural habitat. And that sanctuary or zoo you visited on holiday? The cute animals you photographed could have been stolen from their mother as a baby, exploited, or drugged to make money from unknowing tourists.
There are huge sums of money involved. Classed as the fourth biggest illegal trade in the world, the estimated worth is £15 billion annually. That’s a huge gain for the traffickers who are often also involved in other crimes. It’s hard to track what happens, and it’s difficult to stop it. With so many animal species being threatened, action needs to be taken.
Many people think that the way these operations are identified is in airports, where security uncovers the animals being smuggled and the whole group of criminals involved are found, arrested and prosecuted. In reality, it rarely happens like that. Most of these criminals are opportunists with no single member of the chain knowing anything about the person they’re buying from or selling to, let alone a crime boss overseeing the whole operation.
That’s why it is important to look at the wider picture when tackling these crimes, trying to spot patterns in behaviour. In the past, trying to tackle wildlife trafficking was often overlooked in financial crime investigations but in more recent years there has been increased focus in this area to help prevent these heinous crimes. Many countries want to incorporate it into their investigations but lack the resources and knowledge to do so.
There is also the challenge that corruption and bribery can be prevalent in many countries where wildlife trafficking is rampant, making it difficult for meaningful action to be taken. But where institutions can identify and follow an illicit financial trail, big strides can be made in uncovering wildlife trafficking. But it’s not just the banks that can tackle this issue; law enforcement, charities, governments and society as a whole can all get involved to fight the illegal trade of wildlife.
And yes, that does mean you too. We can all help. Think about the places you visit, the things you buy and the impact you have. Even the greatest journey starts with a single step. We all need to think about taking it.
To learn more about the AML courses we offer visit https://www.int-comp.org/qualifications/anti-money-laundering-aml/
 WWF, ‘Stopping the illegal wildlife trade’: https://www.wwf.org.uk/what-we-do/stopping-illegal-wildlife-trade – accessed May 2021
 Steven Worrall, ‘Inside the disturbing world of illegal wildlife trade’, National Geographic, 12th November 2018: https://www.nationalgeographic.co.uk/animals/2018/11/inside-disturbing-world-illegal-wildlife-trade – accessed May 2021
 Alexandria Reid and Tom Keatinge, ‘Case Closed? Why we should review historic wildlife trafficking cases from a financial perspective’, Risk Screen, 30th March 2020: https://www.riskscreen.com/kyc360/news/case-closed-why-we-should-review-historic-wildlife-trafficking-cases-from-a-financial-perspective/ – accessed May 2021
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