lllegal wildlife trade (IWT) is here defined as trade in wildlife or wildlife parts, derivatives, or by-products that violates either international legal frameworks or the national legislation of affected countries, thereby encompassing both domestic laws and CITES regulations. It comprises wild species of fauna and flora, excluding illegal fishing and logging. IWT encompasses the entire illegal supply chain of wildlife crime, thereby including activities such as illegally killing or poaching, transporting, smuggling, exchanging, selling, purchasing, and possessing wild fauna and flora. This further includes the various forms of money laundering, corruption, and marketing of illicit goods necessary for these transactions to occur. This definition is based on and was adapted from Haenlein and Smith, 2016; OECD, 2019; and TRAFFIC, 2020.
The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) states that IWT has become by now the fourth largest illegal trade worldwide after arms, drugs and human trafficking. This overexploitation of our resources can have far-reaching and dire consequences: With shrinking biodiversity, the balance of ecosystems is affected, which in turn will impact human well-being. Impacts of IWT further comprise government losses on revenues and taxes, as well as a compromised national security, as some studies pointed out that insurgency groups finance their activities from proceeds originating from IWT. Therefore, combatting IWT requires several levers to efficiently enact counter-measures. Some of these concern closing loopholes in national legislation and introducing proportionate penalties. Others aim to strengthen law enforcement and to fight corruption. And then there are interventions that introduce alternative means of income to wean people away from poaching and raise awareness among stakeholders on the importance of the species traded illegally. Whereas all of these measures are valid, each IWT hotspot requires a different combination of these approaches, considering the local context. Above all, combatting IWT cannot take place in isolation. International collaboration and the transboundary exchange of information are crucial to stop this crime.