The illegal wildlife trade (IWT) is among the five most lucrative global crimes and is often run by highly organised criminal networks. These networks are difficult to detect and even more difficult to deter. The private sector can unknowingly become caught up in their criminal activity, as traffickers use increasingly sophisticated financial systems or transport logistics to facilitate wildlife crime.
By forming partnerships with businesses in these private sectors we are bringing new voices and context to the conservation discussion, which is crucial if we are to stop the trafficking of wildlife products. Since founding in 2013, we have established two Taskforces, the Transport and Financial Taskforces, representing large proportions of the global shipping, airline, and financial industries. These Taskforces use their resources and networks to identify, report, and disrupt wildlife trafficking and prevent their members from becoming unwitting participants.
The Transport Taskforce convenes airlines, ports, shipping companies, freight organisations and logistics firms, to prevent illegal wildlife products from being successfully trafficked across borders.
Our Regional Chapters rely on the knowledge of local experts to tackle the illegal wildlife trade problems specific to their local communities – from rhino poaching in Southern Africa to the use of pangolin scales in traditional Chinese medicine.
Southern Africa is home to some of the world’s most iconic species, including rhinos and elephants, making it one of the largest source regions for the illegal wildlife trade (IWT.) Nevertheless, our Southern African Chapter, launched in 2020, is rising to the challenge. Local members of the Financial Taskforce, along with the South African Anti-Money Laundering Integrated Task Force (SAMLIT), are proactive at stopping and investigating wildlife crime detectable in financial systems. The Chapter also works with the regional transport sector through initiatives including Project Vikela, which has been working to deploy an automated system for detecting illegal wildlife products in security screening systems, without compromising airport security. Thanks to the Southern Africa Chapter’s hard work, multiple shipments of rhino horn were detected and stopped in December 2021.
East Africa is a key source region for the illegal wildlife trade (IWT), meaning it experiences some of the highest levels of illegal poaching and trafficking globally. United for Wildlife launched a Regional Chapter here in 2020. This Chapter successfully engages both financial intelligence units and major regional players in the transport sector. It works with organisations including Kenya Airlines and other carriers to halt the movement of illegal wildlife products and aims to form relationships with local shipping and maritime ports. It also combats financial crimes associated with IWT, providing vital information to law enforcement agencies and other authorities. Consequently, several key arrests have been made in the region leading to the Eastern and Southern Africa Anti-Money Laundering Group (ESAAMLG) committing to working closely with us and our local partners.
The Middle East & North Africa (MENA) region is particularly attractive to traffickers due to its multiple transport hubs and the existence of a large financial sector. Launched in February 2022 by Prince William, this Regional Chapter has moved at pace to establish a network to share information and resources, strengthen existing partnerships and better respond to support local priorities. Since launch, the Chapter has received new signatories from the financial services and transport sector, including Dubai Airport.
Established in 2021, United for Wildlife’s Southeast Asia and Australasia Chapter has had to address multiple threats as the region is both a source market and a consumer market as well as a transport hub for the illegal wildlife trade (IWT). The Chapter has gone from strength to strength, growing its membership and engaging crucial transport and financial sector partners. In July 2022, key players in the private sector attended a presentation by The Association of Banks in Singapore which, for the first time ever, showcased the need to address environmental crimes. Thanks to the work of our Southeast Asia Chapter, attitudes towards the illegal wildlife trade are changing.
Hong Kong is a key consumer market for IWT and the gateway to many other surrounding regions due to its outstanding connections and infrastructure. Our chapter in Hong Kong was launched in 2020 to crack down on the transport of illegal wildlife products. Through its strong steering committee and many working groups, the Hong Kong Chapter is helping to make real change. In August 2021, a new Act was passed which ensures that IWT is included as an Organised and Serious Crimes Ordinance (OSCO) and in July 2022, the law on wildlife crime was intensified leading to greater penalties for those who are convicted; both are major victories for the region.
United for Wildlife was founded by Prince William and The Royal Foundation to end the illegal wildlife trade for good. In 2016, after 12 months of meetings in London, Geneva and Dubai, members of the United for Wildlife Transport Taskforce signed up to the Buckingham Palace Declaration – a landmark series of commitments to strengthen their networks against the illegal wildlife trade. This was soon followed by the Mansion House Declaration, which brought together financial institutions from across the globe to work collaboratively to share expertise and resource. This network of public and private organisations, originally convened in London, extends across the globe, building an international alliance against the illegal wildlife trade. Regional chapters have been established across Africa, Asia and Australia, the Middle East and North Africa with more planned, including in Europe.
U.S. multinational businesses – especially in the financial and transport sectors – and law enforcement agencies play a vital role in the prevention of the global trafficking of wildlife products and the disruption of the criminal networks that result from it. The launch of the North America Chapter was a significant moment in United for Wildlife’s fight against the illegal wildlife trade (IWT). UfW’s North American partners will provide the network with significant additional resources to ensure that the fight against the IWT starts, rather than ends, with the arrest of the poacher on the ground.
The illegal wildlife trade (IWT) plays a central role in the senseless destruction of our flora and fauna. Over 7,000 species of wild animals and plants are currently being traded illegally around the world, with up to 100 million plants and animals trafficked annually. With Latin America and the Caribbean home to over 50% of the world’s biodiversity, it is unsurprising that the region is highly desirable to those involved in IWT. In April 2022, as delegates from across the world came together for the Americas’ IWT Conference in Cartagena, Colombia to foster further international cooperation for the prevention and control of IWT, Colombia took the unprecedented step of becoming the first country to sign up to United for Wildlife’s Buckingham Palace Declaration. Stakeholders then came together in Santa Marta, Colombia in July 2023 to launch our Latin America and Caribbean Chapter.
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