Tackling unsustainable (legal) and illegal wildlife trade


To tackle unsustainable [legal] and illegal wildlife trade through research, policy and corporate sector engagement


The illegal wildlife trade and the illegal hunting that it drives are having a devastating effect on terrestrial and marine species, including many of particular importance to WCS. Elephants, tigers and other big cats, rhinos, birds such as parrots and macaws, freshwater turtles, tortoises, pangolins, sharks and rays are all facing very significant threats from trafficking due to the demand for entire animals and/or their parts. This, in turn, is facilitated by other factors including corruption and weak governance along the trade chain.The global scale of the illegal wildlife trade enables the emergence and spread of zoonotic diseases, provides revenue for organized crime syndicates and militias in some cases (and potentially for terrorist groups in some circumstances), and is thus increasingly recognized as a national and local security threat. At the local level, the breakdown in rule of law exacerbates local conflict and undermines local livelihoods. The current global political climate for addressing these issues is highly favorable, but efforts to translate this momentum into solid action in many countries are still hampered by weak national capacity, low political will, and persistent corruption that limits the level of transnational cooperation needed to dismantle international organized criminal syndicates.

How is this being implemented?

WCS field programs in Indonesia and Malaysia are working closely with the respective Government agencies toward collaboratively tackling illegal wildlife trade. Improving cross-border law enforcement coordination is essential to counter transboundary wildlife trafficking along major transboundary routes. We leverage our role as a trusted partner of host governments where we are working, and of international and intergovernmental organizations, to prioritize intelligence-led law enforcement, raise the profile and priority of wildlife crime with governments and treaties, and help convert actionable intelligence into real action. This approach has already led to enhanced enforcement operations resulting in the successful arrest, prosecution, and conviction of targeted wildlife criminals in several countries. The WCS Indonesia Program’s ‘Wildlife Crimes Unit’ or WCU is one of the most successful examples of this approach. WCS field programs actively support regional Government agencies in the region to implement CITES provisions. 

Singapore is a globally significant hub for the finance and transportation/logistics sectors. As a consequence of its position as a major international transshipment port, Singapore plays a key role in the global commercial trade in wildlife and wildlife products such as ivory, sharks (fin and meat), rays (gill rakers), reptiles (skins) and birds (pet trade, aviculture industry). WCS is a founding member organization of the United for Wildlife collaboration and the associated International Taskforce on the Transportation of Illegal Wildlife Products comprising leaders from the global transportation industry. In Singapore, WCS will identify platforms for engagement with Taskforce signatories to support implementation of taskforce commitments. WCS will also engage in policy-focused research to improve the understanding of drivers and characteristics of illegal wildlife trade, identifying relevant leverage points for intervention through international policy platforms such as CITES. Increasing awareness and reducing demand for trade-impacted species is an important priority. With the Finance sector, WCS will work toward identifying mechanisms of mutual benefit that align with international recommendations to tackle money laundering associated with wildlife crime.

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