Trafficking of wildlife involves complex trade chains, which nearly always include some form of transport. One of the challenges in stopping illegal wildlife trade and the trafficking of illegal wildlife products is that these items are often transported in parallel with legal trade or transport.
When illegal products are moved and transported across national borders and across the globe, it is called trafficking. This can often involve complex trade chains, which includes transportation and the exchange of money.
As a result, the transport and financial sectors often become unwittingly involved in illegal wildlife trade. One of the challenges in stopping the trafficking of illegal wildlife products is that illegal items are often transported in parallel with legal trade. The volume of legal international trade plus the speed at which these operations take place creates a perfect backdrop for criminal activities.
For example, trade is often by sealed containers, packed remotely far away from transport hubs and accompanied by paperwork created by numerous, often unknown and unregulated, agents. As a result, illegal trade can be carried out covertly by concealing and smuggling specimens or by mis-declaring a shipment as something legal. And because some protected species can be traded commercially if they are captive-bred, traffickers can tamper with permits, give false accounts of the numbers being exported or the origins of the species, or ‘launder’ specimens through the complexities of re-export.
Maritime trafficking (trafficking by sea) is believed to be the main form of transport for high-volume illicit wildlife products, especially for large items like elephant tusks. Airborne trafficking is often used to transport a lower volume of products and smaller items such as rhino horns.
Combining forces with the private sector is crucial in stopping the trafficking of illegal wildlife products. By forming partnerships with businesses from the transport sector, United for Wildlife is trying to break the chains of illegal wildlife trade; this is why the United for Wildlife Transport Taskforce was established. Find out what the Taskforce does here.