A new Working Paper by our Collective Action experts explores private-sector engagement in the fight against illegal wildlife trade.

Part of a multi-disciplinary Basel Institute programme focused on financial crime in illegal wildlife trade (IWT), the working paper explores efforts by and with private-sector organisations to combat the multibillion-dollar illegal trade and strengthen their resistance to the risks it poses to their business.

Industry leaders committed to tackling wildlife crime gathered at St. James's Palace today for a high-level joint meeting of the United for Wildlife Taskforces.

The UfW Transport and Financial Taskforces, an initiative of The Royal Foundation of The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, bring together major transport companies and financial institutions from around the world with law enforcement and experts in illegal wildlife trade (IWT). 

Every day, an unknown number of elephant tusks, rhino horn, pangolin scales and other wildlife products – alive and dead – cross the oceans in container ships and cargo flights for use in traditional medicine, crafts and the illegal pet trade. Rare trees are felled in ancient forests and shipped out under false certificates.

They leave behind the butchered carcasses of the last remaining animals of many species, scarred and emptied landscapes, legal livelihoods undermined by corruption and criminal activity, and communities ravaged by organised crime networks.

Given the vast dimensions of the multibillion-dollar illegal wildlife trade (IWT), it may be surprising that until recently, global efforts to tackle IWT came mainly from the conservation sector. This has typically consisted of numerous donor-funded efforts to catch poachers and raise public awareness of the plight of endangered species.

Valuable as those efforts are, they do little to impact the organised crime networks, corruption and illicit financial flows that allow the lucrative illegal trade in wildlife products to continue.

The key determinants of whether particular species and ecosystems will live or die today are social factors – criminal behavior, political corruption, consumer behavior, land use decisions, cultural norms and practices, individual psychology, conflict, poverty, local livelihood choices, socio-economic inequalities, et al. But despite recognizing that our current biodiversity catastrophe has human, social roots, conservationists and environmentalists have yet to translate such consensus into action to save wildlife and the natural environment on a wide scale.