UN’s first World Wildlife Crime Report concludes many species ‘hanging on by a thread’

The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) has released its first ever study specifically addressing wildlife crime. The strongly worded report warns that wildlife crimes such as poaching and illegal trading constitute a massive global problem that not only threatens species diversity, but also presents real environmental dangers and undermines the rule of law around the globe.

The UNODC’s inaugural report—part of its ongoing Global Programme on Wildlife and Forest Crime—was launched at this week’s Commission on Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice. Using analysis of trade sectors, markets and case studies, the report focuses on seven key areas to illustrate the scale of wildlife and forest crime: seafood; pets, zoos and breeding; food, medicine and tonics; art, décor and jewellery; cosmetics and perfume; fashion; and furniture.

‘The desperate plight of iconic species at the hands of poachers has deservedly captured the world’s attention, and none too soon,’ said Yury Fedotov, UNODC Executive Director. ‘Animals like the tiger, feared and revered throughout human history, are now hanging on by a thread, their dwindling numbers spread across a range of states that are struggling to protect them.

‘African elephants and rhinos are under constant pressure,’ he continued. ‘But the threat of wildlife crime does not stop with these majestic animals. One of the critical messages to emerge from this research is that wildlife and forest crime is not limited to certain countries or regions.’

The hard-hitting report builds on information gathered from World WISE, a new data platform detailing more than 164,000 seizures relating to wildlife crime from 120 countries. It was developed by UNODC with data provided by partner organisations within the International Consortium on Combating Wildlife Crime, such as the Secretariat of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), and the World Customs Organization.

A big eye-opening factor of the report is the revelation of how widespread wildlife crime is, and just how many species of animals it affects. Almost 7,000 species are included in the seizures, but no single animal represents more than 6% of the total, and neither does any one country constitute the source of more than 15% of the seized shipments.

‘This comprehensive global report is rooted in the best data and case studies available, is backed by in-depth analysis, and demonstrates a heightened sense of rigour in the way in which we report on wildlife crime,’ stressed CITES Secretary-General John E Scanlon.

‘The World Wildlife Crime Report shows the extensive involvement of transnational organised criminal groups in these highly destructive crimes and the pervasive impact of corruption, demonstrating that combating wildlife crime warrants even greater attention and resources at all levels,’ he added. ‘If we want to get serious about wildlife and forest crime, we must shore up our collective responses and close these gaps.’