TT Talk - Wildlife crime


TT Talk - Wildlife crime

The trafficking of wildlife is a global issue prevalent across all modes of transport and in every region of the world.

Wildlife crime represents one of the world’s largest illicit markets. Poverty, armed conflict, corruption and lack of enforcement all exacerbate this issue, resulting in global implications for national security, the environment, people and communities.

“Wildlife trafficking is one of the most prominent forms of international organised crime globally”

Wildlife trafficking is one of the most prominent forms of international organised crime globally. Run by international networks, wildlife trafficking has been linked to other illicit activities, such as human and drug trafficking, all funding further societal harm.

Wildlife trafficking is driven by both legal and illegal demand for products derived from various species. Over 7,000 species are impacted by illegal wildlife trade, though ivory, rhino horn, live reptiles and live birds represent around 66% of trafficked wildlife products.

Wildlife traffickers exploit the increasing connectivity of the global transport network, threatening human health and security, creating risk throughout industry supply chains and pushing animal species into extinction.

There is a heavy reliance on legitimate transportation systems, including both sea and air, to move illegal wildlife goods from source to their intended markets. In some instances, traffickers will take irregular routes in order to obscure the country of origin.

Exposure to trafficking of illegal wildlife can generally be determined by assessing the size and scale of operational throughput of an airport or maritime port, the screening procedures employed and the hinterland infrastructure. Such shippers will look to take advantage of operational deficiencies to ensure the safe passage of their goods. Many shipments will move through large regional hubs which provide greater flexibility in reaching global markets. 

“There are a number of associated risks for supply chain stakeholders where wildlife trafficking is concerned, including reputational, legal, and health and safety risks”

There are a number of associated risks for supply chain stakeholders where wildlife trafficking is concerned, including reputational, legal, and health and safety risks.

A number of well-established organisations such as TRAFFIC and the ROUTES Partnership are focused on tracking the movement of wildlife goods and cracking down on groups undertaking this activity. Seizures of such shipments continue to increase as the modus operandi and the routes of the trade are better understood.

Where seizures are made or the authorities present risk to the shipper, there is an increased likelihood of abandonment of goods, resulting in cost and disruption for legitimate operators. Furthermore, in seeking to raise awareness of this illicit trade, interested organisations will typically make any seizure very public, exposing carriers, terminals and logistics operators to the substantial reputational risk associated with this trade.

Modus Operandi
This trade is not new. What is new to the logistics industry in terms of risk is the rapid increase over the last decade of global connectivity and the general ability to transport with ease from what could have been described as remote source regions to any market in the world.

The shippers of these goods, as with any illicit trade, are masters of their craft. They will go to great lengths to avoid detection. As a result of research projects undertaken by organisations such as TRAFFIC and ROUTES, more is now known about the shipment of these goods and whilst not exhaustive, below are some of the key features.

When placing this type of cargo into the supply chain they are inevitably mis-declared or entirely undeclared. The shipper is unlikely to have a sound knowledge when it comes to the low value commodities within which these goods are hidden, therefore incorrect or incomplete customs declarations and shipping information are often supplied by the shipper. Operators in affected origin regions need to be vigilant.

In order to avoid detection research suggests that the shipments take unusual and circuitous transit routes in order to mask the country of origin. Where unusual requests are made for intra-regional shipments, again this should raise suspicion. 

“As a stakeholder in the supply chain you should always perform due diligence on your contractual partners”

As a stakeholder in the supply chain you should always perform due diligence on your contractual partners, whether it be the shipper or your sub-contractor to ensure their legitimacy and to protect your own business. Shell or cover companies are frequently used to ship these types of goods to avoid detection. A sound due diligence procedure will assist in identifying and interrogating new trade partners and raise suspicions.

What is being done?
Organisations such as TRAFFIC are working tirelessly to increase awareness of this trade with a view to reducing the volumes shipped and ultimately the impact on the global economy and the ecosystems supporting these species.

As a stakeholder in the supply chain you can make a difference by:

  • Taking active steps to improve the understanding of the status and trends in illegal wildlife trade, with a focus on trade routes and target species.
  • Collaborating with industry partners and organisations promoting actions to reduce and control illegal wildlife trade.
  • Raising awareness of this type of illicit trade amongst your employees, peers and counterparties. This may include developing sector-specific training materials and providing ‘red flag’ indicators to support the booking and communication processes.
  • Where appropriate, reviewing standards and practices to be better able to identify illegal shipments of this kind.

Engage with the issues in order to avoid elevated business risks.

We gratefully acknowledge the assistance in the preparation of this article of Claire Beastall, Training and Capacity Building Coordinator (Southeast Asia), TRAFFIC


We hope that you have found the above interesting. If you would like further information, or have any comments, please email us, or take this opportunity to forward to any colleagues who you may feel would be interested.

We look forward to hearing from you.

Peregrine Storrs-Fox
Risk Management Director, TT Club


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