Illicit Trade of Wild Flora and Fauna

 Illicit Trade of Wild Flora and Fauna  


As part of the Department of Seaport Security, the Research Unit on Illicit Trade of Wild Flora and Fauna focuses on the illegal trade in live animals or animal products, such as eels or ivory. The objective of this Research Unit is to identify the challenges that the illegal trade of flora and fauna poses to seaports. Through the accumulation of data, we are able to map out and spot the different challenges to seaports. As a result, we are able to provide our stakeholders with tailor-made solutions and recommendations.

Illegal Trade in Wild Flora and Fauna

Some methods used to carry out illegal wildlife trafficking include the falsification of international permits, bribes to illegally obtain international permits, bribes to evade customs controls and procedures, concealing wildlife products within legal environmental products, concealing wildlife products in using materials which prevent detection and processing wildlife products into items. The European authorities have reported detecting illegal wildlife shipments within postal parcels, couriers’ parcels, ship containers, hidden in vehicles, personal baggage of delivery vans, freights and personal baggage of tourists.

When looking at the EU, some of the Member States play a significant role in the illegal wildlife market as exporters, transit hubs, and or final destinations of wildlife originating from the Americas, the African continent, and Asia. In the last two years, seaports and airports across the Union have reported seizures of several products being imported in the region, from body parts to extracts and derivatives of both plants and animals. In addition, the EU is also believed to be a supplier of eels—which are greatly endangered—to the Asian continent. In short, countries in the EU are both consumers and suppliers. In particular, those who stand out in the illegal trade the most are Spain, France, the U.K and the Netherlands as at least 75% of seizures that occurred in the past two years are accounted for by these four countries.

The most recent report by the wildlife trade monitoring network TRAFFIC, explains that seizures in the EU from the year 2018 amount to up to 2.3 million euros, which present an increase by 1.8 million since 2017. The main products circulating the union are live plants and their derivatives; corals, live reptiles and their derivatives; live birds; elephant ivory; live mammals, their body parts and derivatives. Adding to that, live eels are the biggest export from the EU to countries in the Asian continent such as China and Hong Kong, where they are considered to be a delicacy.

Live animals were the most highly valued commodities. The aggregate number of seizures of 2018 according to countries’ reports equals to 6.012 and 49% of the seizures were imports, 4% were exports, and 3% transits. This new number of seizures presents a 6% increase since 2017 where 5.644 seizures were recorded. This points to evidence that the demand for wildlife in the EU is growing.

A preliminary investigation has revealed that the Netherlands is the second-largest illegal wildlife country of destination in the EU as well as a transit hub. Airports and seaports are the main points of entry. Items shipped through air and sea are, in fact, less likely to be detected due to the large number of goods and persons transiting through the terminals.

The lack of awareness of the illegal trade in flora and fauna makes the management of the demand increasingly difficult. To this respect, the Research Unit was born out of the need to raise understanding of the issue and, at the same time, assist public and private stakeholders in combating the illegal flow of animal and plants through seaports.

Mission and Aim

The mission of this Research Unit is to identify the challenges seaports face in the light of illegal wildlife trafficking. In order to achieve this, the Research Unit aims to collect sufficient data on wildlife trafficking and compile them into one comprehensive document, as well as to offer solutions and recommendations to our stakeholders.

The Team

Our international team consists of determined, driven and high performing young professionals who deeply care about the well-being of live animals and the preservation of species. The team shares a common goal of providing stakeholders with innovative recommendations for better international governance, domestic management and better conditions for wildlife.

Recent Publications

The work of the Research Unit on Illicit Trade of Wild Flora and Fauna will be made available here. 

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