How do you solve a problem like illegal wildlife trafficking?


Angela Foulsham, CSR Asia

Date Published

According to TRAFFIC, the wildlife trade monitoring network, it is
often said that illegal wildlife trade is the third most valuable
illicit commerce behind drugs and arms. The wildlife trade is
currently estimated to be worth tens of billions of US dollars, with
its illegal activities reaching across the globe, making wildlife
trafficking an international crime.

After habitat loss, overexploitation is the second-largest direct
threat to many species. The legal global trade in wildlife is
regulated by the United Nations’ Convention on International Trade in
Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES). CITES is an
international agreement between the governments of 183 member
countries (Parties), which includes all ASEAN countries as well as
China, Japan and the Republic of Korea. CITES aims to ensure that
international trade in specimens of wild animals and plants does not
threaten their survival, and affords varying degrees of protection to
more than 35,000 species of animals and plants, many of which are
endangered or vulnerable.

Illegal wildlife trade in Asia

Though wildlife trafficking is a global problem, Asia is a known hot
spot for the trade as it is home to a huge diversity of wildlife and
is both a major source of poaching as well as a large product market
for the trade. The demand for illegal wildlife products includes
animal parts like skins, scales, bones, meat, or other tissues that
are used as medicinal ingredients, food products or items of clothing
or decorations. The demand also includes live animals for the exotic
pet trade, particularly for songbirds in Asia, as well as other
wildlife products such as timber or rare ornamental plants. This
demand leads to exploitation, threatening survival of countless
species and pushing endangered species further towards extinction.

Confronting the issue of wildlife trafficking is firmly on the agenda,
especially in Asia, with countries like Singapore recently announcing
consideration of a ban on the sale of ivory, and increasingly more
seizures and raids of wildlife trading rings in countries like
Malaysia and Vietnam. The topic of illegal wildlife trafficking has
also been gaining more attention recently in the business community in
Asia, prompting a dedicated session on this issue at CSR Asia’s Summit
last year and a previous newsletter article on the subject.

How is corporate business connected to this trade?

Wildlife trafficking is big business. As well as the smaller
operations, large-scale organised crime networks, poach, traffic and
sell illegal items world-wide. This trade does not operate in
isolation, and it invariably comes into contact with legitimate
businesses at various links in the supply chain.

Criminals need to move their illegal wildlife goods between locations,
both within countries and internationally. They do so by abusing the
services of unknowing logistics companies to transport these goods by
land, air, or sea. Criminals also need to sell these illegal goods,
and are increasingly utilising online platforms and social media to
reach their customers.

It is through these links that the private sector can take action to
bring down the trade chain in illegal wildlife.

Taking action – the DHL case study

A number of companies such as DHL have already been looking at the
practical ways in which they can contribute to stopping the illegal
wildlife trade. The company recently published an article ‘Stopping
Wildlife Trafficking in its Tracks’ on their website ‘Logistics of
Things’, detailing their journey and actions taken to prevent abuse of
their services by wildlife criminals using logistics networks to
transport illegal wildlife goods. To read more, click here.

What’s next?

The illegal wildlife trade has traditionally been left to policy
makers, law enforcement and nature conservation organisations to
tackle. It is now clear that the private sector also needs to be part
of the solution. Dedicated action and partnerships between the public
and private sectors, as well as industry-wide action, are needed to
break the trade chain and solve the illegal wildlife trafficking