Poaching is a Serious Crime
Even though poaching, also known as wildlife crime, is estimated to generate revenues of between $7 billion to $23 billion annually, and even though it has become increasingly clear that organized criminal groups stand behind much of the illicit transactions, the law enforcement community often does not investigate the crimes at any level beyond the poacher or the courier. It is often viewed as a “conservation” issue, not under the coordinated and watchful eye of international policing.
The poachers and their middleman are able to take full advantage of any laxness, and they use concealment methods that outmaneuver the limited resources available to local authorities. In addition, the poaching networks have discovered legal loopholes in an ill-defined international enforcement and regulatory arena. For example, products such as reptile skins can be legally acquired in many markets, thus complicating the efforts of the police at the source, to stop the trading.
Clearly a major change of mindset is necessary to curtail the illegal trading in wildlife. The international policing community needs to view wildlife crime as a serious crime, at the level of drug trafficking, whose profits are laundered and help to support other serious crimes and even terrorism.
Nevertheless, there are paths that law enforcement and national security organizations can take to mitigate and even prevent the smuggling of the animal parts: through skilled monitoring of the communications of the poaching suspects, together with expert understanding of the mechanics of the illicit trades, local authorities can gain meaningful insights about sellers, buyers, middlemen and money transfers. This intelligence can assist local field crews to detect suspicious movements in the animal reserves, and assist security teams at the destination sites to locate the buyers.
In the publication linked below, “Enhancing the Detection, Investigation and Disruption of Illicit Financial Flows from Wildlife Crime”, 2017, the Asia/Pacific Group on Money Laundering and the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, makes a strong case for stronger regulations and increased internal intelligence cooperation on the war against wildlife crimes.