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How do you solve a problem like illegal wildlife trafficking?
by Angela Foulsham  angela.foulsham@csr-asia.com
22 Mar 2017

According to TRAFFIC, the wildlife trade monitoring network, it is often said that illegal wildlife trade is the third most valuable illicit commerce behind drugs and arms. The wildlife trade is currently estimated to be worth tens of billions of US dollars, with its illegal activities reaching across the globe, making wildlife trafficking an international crime.

After habitat loss, overexploitation is the second-largest direct threat to many species. The legal global trade in wildlife is regulated by the United Nations' Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES). CITES is an international agreement between the governments of 183 member countries (Parties), which includes all ASEAN countries as well as China, Japan and the Republic of Korea. CITES aims to ensure that international trade in specimens of wild animals and plants does not threaten their survival, and affords varying degrees of protection to more than 35,000 species of animals and plants, many of which are endangered or vulnerable.

Illegal wildlife trade in Asia

Though wildlife trafficking is a global problem, Asia is a known hot spot for the trade as it is home to a huge diversity of wildlife and is both a major source of poaching as well as a large product market for the trade. The demand for illegal wildlife products includes animal parts like skins, scales, bones, meat, or other tissues that are used as medicinal ingredients, food products or items of clothing or decorations. The demand also includes live animals for the exotic pet trade, particularly for songbirds in Asia, as well as other wildlife products such as timber or rare ornamental plants. This demand leads to exploitation, threatening survival of countless species and pushing endangered species further towards extinction.

Confronting the issue of wildlife trafficking is firmly on the agenda, especially in Asia, with countries like Singapore recently announcing consideration of a ban on the sale of ivory, and increasingly more seizures and raids of wildlife trading rings in countries like Malaysia and Vietnam. The topic of illegal wildlife trafficking has also been gaining more attention recently in the business community in Asia, prompting a dedicated session on this issue at CSR Asia’s Summit last year and a previous newsletter article on the subject.

How is corporate business connected to this trade?

Wildlife trafficking is big business. As well as the smaller operations, large-scale organised crime networks, poach, traffic and sell illegal items world-wide. This trade does not operate in isolation, and it invariably comes into contact with legitimate businesses at various links in the supply chain.
Criminals need to move their illegal wildlife goods between locations, both within countries and internationally. They do so by abusing the services of unknowing logistics companies to transport these goods by land, air, or sea. Criminals also need to sell these illegal goods, and are increasingly utilising online platforms and social media to reach their customers.

It is through these links that the private sector can take action to bring down the trade chain in illegal wildlife.

Taking action – the DHL case study

A number of companies such as DHL have already been looking at the practical ways in which they can contribute to stopping the illegal wildlife trade. The company recently published an article ‘Stopping Wildlife Trafficking in its Tracks’ on their website ‘Logistics of Things’, detailing their journey and actions taken to prevent abuse of their services by wildlife criminals using logistics networks to transport illegal wildlife goods. To read more, click here.

What’s next?

The illegal wildlife trade has traditionally been left to policy makers, law enforcement and nature conservation organisations to tackle. It is now clear that the private sector also needs to be part of the solution. Dedicated action and partnerships between the public and private sectors, as well as industry-wide action, are needed to break the trade chain and solve the illegal wildlife trafficking problem.

For any questions please contact Angela Foulsham, Project Manager CSR Asia, or Amanda De Silva, Corporate Responsibility DHL – Asia Pacific, Middle East & Africa DHL.


Image credit: Kenneth Cameron / USFWS (2) - Pangolin scale burn in Cameroon. The pangolin holds the undesirable title of being the most illegally traded mammal in the world.


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