Fauna / What is wildlife crime, and why does it affect us?

What is wildlife crime? ENACT is leading discussions on wildlife crime and comprehensive responses to this complex challenge.

What is wildlife crime?

  • The illegal poaching, smuggling or transport of a specific animal product or species (such as rhino horn or elephant tusks) by criminal groups or individuals for the purpose of financial profit or other material gain.
  • Wildlife crime is the fourth most lucrative form of organised crime on the planet. Laws on wildlife crime are generally less stringent, thus participation is not as risky and is more lucrative than other crimes, such as drug trafficking.

What does this mean?

  • Due to wildlife crime, many of the world’s animals have become extinct or endangered. We are slowly losing some of Africa’s most amazing animals: big cats, elephants, rhinos and pangolins – to name a few.
  • In many countries, protecting endangered species has become a national priority, which has led to immense human and financial costs. 

How does this affect us?

  • For every animal that goes extinct, our world becomes less diverse and less beautiful. Wildlife crime has escalated to the point where animals are killed in mass, not just for food or clothing but for ornamental value, traditional medicine and other expressions of status.
  • The huge profits involved in wildlife trafficking allow criminal networks to take advantage of resource-constrained states. Syndicates often pay handsome bribes to officials that receive modest and often inconsistent wages in a process that deepens corruption and undermines development.
  • Wildlife crime has been on the increase over the past ten years, with a spike in the last five. The cost of this increase can be seen in the example of Kruger National Park in South Africa, where R200 million is spent annually on security.

How can we fix this problem?

  • The clandestine nature of wildlife crime makes it extremely difficult to measure its scale and identify the actors, species, activities, state responses and drivers involved.
  • Current approaches rely heavily on the supply side of wildlife crime (e.g. poaching statistics). However, more holistic approaches that address the economic and social factors aiding supply, along with consumer preferences in demand countries, would yield more effective responses. 

ENACT’s approach 

  • To tackle this complex phenomenon, we need more diverse data understand the factors that drive people to participate in wildlife crime.
  • It is unlikely that wildlife crime exists in isolation from other criminal activities (such as drug trafficking) and there is a need to identify such intersections.
  • Dedicated to addressing organised crime in Africa in all its forms, ENACT is leading discussions on wildlife crime and comprehensive responses to this complex challenge.


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ENACT is funded by the European Union
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ENACT is implemented by the Institute for Security Studies in partnership with
INTERPOL and the Global Initiative against Transnational Organized Crime.