Environmental and wildlife crime has become one of the world’s largest and most profitable crime sectors and continues to grow as it pushes many species to the brink of extinction.
With the black market for illegal wildlife products worth up to $20bn per year, poaching and the illegal wildlife trade has become a major area of activity for organised crime groups and is increasing linked with armed violence, corruption and other forms of organised crime.
Poaching and the trade in illegal wildlife is not just damaging the environment and killing at-risk species, but is costing the life of wildlife enforcement officers, with up to 100 rangers killed by poachers annually while protecting wildlife in their natural habitats.
This context underpins today’s agreement at the United for Wildlife summit between The Royal Foundation and INTERPOL on future joint efforts to protect endangered species from illegal wildlife trafficking.
“Criminal syndicates trafficking in illegal wildlife products conduct their clandestine operation across international borders, causing incalculable damage to biodiversity and communities in the process. International law enforcement cooperation is critical in United for Wildlife’s mission to make the illegal trade in wildlife impossible.
“Interpol has been a longstanding partner of United for Wildlife for many years and we are thrilled that, through this Letter of Intent, we can work more closely, more collaboratively and be more coordinated in pursuit of bringing this global criminal enterprise to an end.”
Rt Hon. Lord Hague of Richmond, Co-Chair of United for Wildlife
Transnational organised criminal groups exploit wildlife across the globe, affecting vulnerable communities, jeopardising public health and threatening the world’s natural resources.
“Over a decade of INTERPOL engagement, wildlife crime has become one of the world’s largest criminal activities. We have seen that wildlife crime relies on armed violence, corruption and is intertwined with financial crimes, ranging from money laundering to the financing of other forms of transnational organised crime.
“Considering the scale and value of illegal wildlife trade internationally, financial and transport data is crucial to fighting wildlife trafficking. Our efforts with the members of United for Wildlife taskforces in these areas underlines the need for partnerships to make the world’s environment safer from predators.”
INTERPOL’s Executive Director of Police Services, Stephen Kavanagh
INTERPOL assists its 195 member countries in raising awareness of abuses of national and international regulations and enhances their investigative and analytical capabilities leading to decisive enforcement action such as the series of Operation Thunder. Since 2016 INTERPOL has mobilised law enforcement authorities from across more than 100 member countries in coordinated Thunder actions against the illegal wildlife trade, leading to thousands of seizures and arrests across the globe.