The world’s wildlife needs protection: how wildlife crime is fought through effective intelligence and investigative operations.

Photo by  V Srinivasan  on  Unsplash

The Living Planet Report 2018 shows that wildlife populations have declined by over half in less than 50 years. This dramatic decline is caused by reckless human interference with the natural ecosystem which leads to climate change, deforestation, overfishing, environmental pollution and illegal wildlife trade. After decades of conservation successes, we are now facing a global poaching crisis and for many iconic animals like elephants, rhinos and tigers, the situation is particularly critical. The numbers are truly shocking! According to the WWF around 20,000 African elephants are killed by poachers each year, and there was a more than 9,000% increase in rhino poaching in South Africa between 2007 and 2014. The threat of wildlife crime does not stop only with these majestic animals. Nearly 7,000 different species have been counted amongst the more than 164,000 seizures across 120 countries according to the last report by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime.  Illegal trade in marine seahorses from Puglia to China made the news last week and underlines the ever-widening circle of this abhorrent practice. Only a few of us are aware that seahorses and pangolins are amongst the most widely illegally traded endangered species (actually Pangolin is estimated to be the most illegally traded animal in the world!) because of their use in traditional Chinese medicine. Tradition and religious rituals are only some of the reasons behind the trafficking of wildlife, but they play a significant role in increasing demand for endangered animals. The issue of wildlife trafficking is indeed very complex, and the international organised crime associated with it is worth over an estimated £15 billion annually. It is often run by ruthless criminal groups, involved in other organised crimes, and despite the dedicate efforts of teams of rangers, NGOs and local people to protect wildlife from poachers, corruption, gaps in legislation and law enforcement make it very hard for those on the ground to protect wildlife.

Being aware of this dramatic issue and of the challenges to address it, we were particularly pleased to discover the fantastic work conducted by the Elephant Action League (EAL). The Elephant Action League is a hybrid non-profit organisation that protects wildlife and our planet with an intelligence-led approach to wildlife crime. The organisation, in fact, is made of former intelligence, law enforcement and security professionals that conduct intelligence-gathering operations and expose wildlife criminals worldwide, including poachers, traffickers, businessmen and corrupt government officials. The organisation started field operations in 2015, and within less than four years it has conducted dozens of intelligence-gathering and investigative missions in 14 countries throughout Africa, Asia and Latin America, on several criminal wildlife supply chains, including ivory, rhino horn, jaguar parts, live animals, seafood and other illegal wildlife products. As reported on the EAL website, their work has resulted in the arrests of 12 people, including two of the most significant wildlife traffickers in South East Asia. EAL also works on building awareness around wildlife trafficking, and their work was featured in the two most important wildlife/environmental documentaries of the past three years: The Ivory Game and Sea of Shadows. Sea of Shadows recently won the Audience Award at the Sundance Film festival. You can find the link to both documentaries here: https://www.elephantleague.org

To know more about EAL and make a donation you can follow the link:

https://www.elephantleague.org/about-us

For Further reading on wildlife trafficking:

https://www.worldwildlife.org/threats/illegal-wildlife-trade,

https://blueocean.net/illegal-trafficking-of-wildlife/ ,

https://www.independent.co.uk/environment/nature/pangolins-what-are-they-why-are-they-so-endangered-and-what-can-we-do-to-help-10085887.html ,

https://www.cites.org and

https://www.traffic.org/news/