Wildlife Trafficking: Harms and Victimization

Jennifer Maher, Ragnhild Sollund

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review


The Illegal Wildlife Trade (IWT), involving the illicit sale or exchange of wild animals and plants globally, is one of the fastest growing black markets in the world and is commonly positioned alongside the illegal drugs, arms, and human trafficking trades in regard to the economic values involved. The types of offences, offenders, and victims in the trade are varied and complex. Offences include the trafficking of live animals (e.g. birds, reptiles), animal parts (e.g. ivory), and derivatives (e.g. bear bile). Offenders range from native hunters (e.g. poachers) to ignorant tourist (e.g. souvenirs) or organized criminals (e.g. rhino horn). Research suggests the escalation in the collection and killing of wildife is largely influenced by market forces, offenders being motivated by the potential for substantial economic gain, while consumer markets are expanding. The market for IWT ‘goods’ is linked to cultural and social norms—such as religious practice, health benefits, or status symbols—which influence different types of offenders (e.g. trophy hunters, traditional medicine users). This chapter focuses on the trafficking of animals, that as direct victims, dead or alive, usually are given little concern in the field, thus accepting the logic of the CITES convention which regards nonhuman animals as exploitable resources until the limit is reached for the endangerment of the entire species. The victimization can also continue for many of the animals ‘rescued’ and confiscated from the illegal trade—through routine euthanasia and long-term confinement in unsuitable conditions; in only a few cases animals are returned to the wild. Based on a case study involving the UK, Norway, Colombia, and Brazil, this chapter sheds light on the questions, What are the characteristics of wildlife trafficking? (What consumer practices are driving forces, and why?) How are animals (and humans) victimized? What are the common features of the ways in which these crimes are enforced in case study locations? Specifically, the IWT is poorly prioritized and resourced; the enforcement response is often uninformed and uncoordinated, while legislation is complex and disjoined leading to uncertainty and leniency in punishment. The chapter concludes with recommendations in regard to what may be done to prevent this harm.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationFighting Environmental Crime in Europe and Beyond
Subtitle of host publicationThe Role of the EU and Its Member States
EditorsRagnhild Sollund, Christoph H. Stefes, Anna Rita Germani
Place of PublicationLondon
PublisherPalgrave Macmillan
ISBN (Electronic)978-1-349-95085-0
ISBN (Print)978-1-349-95084-3
Publication statusPublished - 2017

Publication series

NamePalgrave Studies in Green Criminology
PublisherPalgrave Macmillan


  • wildlife Trafficking
  • illegal wildlife trade
  • animal abuse
  • green criminology
  • policy and practice
  • policy response
  • Norway
  • United Kingdom
  • Brazil
  • Colombia


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