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Yellow-naped amazon, Ometepe, Nicaragua. © Evan Bowen-Jones / Fauna & Flora

Yellow-naped amazon, Ometepe, Nicaragua. © Evan Bowen-Jones / Fauna & Flora

Tackling illegal and unsustainable wildlife trade

Fauna & Flora has been at the forefront of efforts to stop illegal wildlife trade for almost two decades. Our practical, field-based approach revolves around putting in place effective measures on the ground to safeguard wild populations of key species from poaching for illegal trade.

Illegal wildlife trade has become a high-profile issue receiving global media attention, not least because of its devastating effect on iconic animals such as rhinos, tigers and elephants. Behind the headlines, an even wider range of lesser-known species are also affected, including pangolins, saiga, sturgeon, geckos, orchids and seahorses.

In many cases, wildlife trade can be both legal and sustainable. Traditionally, much of this trade has taken place at the local level; however, globalisation has created new markets and an exponential growth in demand for some wildlife products. As a result, an increasing volume of wildlife is now being traded internationally and illegally, sometimes with the involvement of serious organised crime networks.

This has resulted in a wholesale assault on the world’s wildlife, pushing many species to the brink of extinction, undermining the stability of ecosystems and acutely harming the people who rely directly on natural resources for their livelihoods and well-being.

Pangolin rescued by rangers in Liberia. © Josh Kempinski / Fauna & Flora

Pangolin rescued by rangers in Liberia. © Josh Kempinski / Fauna & Flora

Pangolins are the world's most heavily trafficked mammals. Here is one of the lucky ones, photographed shortly after it was rescued by rangers in Liberia.

How Fauna & Flora is working to end illegal wildlife trade

Tackling illegal and unsustainable trade in wildlife is a complex issue, so we believe that an integrated, multi-pronged approach is needed.

Engaging communities

We work closely with our established network of in-country partners to ensure that our interventions are appropriate to the local context and sustainable in the long term.

We engage communities as active and motivated partners, not least by championing their rights to use and benefit from wildlife resources and helping to ensure that they have a vested interest in safeguarding nature.

We work closely with those responsible for managing nature reserves and conservancies around the world to ensure that threatened species are well protected in the face of poaching onslaughts.

Developing capacity and leadership

We focus on strategic long-term partnerships and collaborations with the institutions, groups and individuals who can have a significant influence on the illegal trade.

We work with governments, law enforcers and judiciary to build capacity for law enforcement and prosecution, seeking to ensure that this is supported by those living closest to wildlife.

We promote leadership and help ensure that local voices can influence policy and wildlife legislation. We also support early-career conservation professionals in honing their ability to combat illegal wildlife trade.

Smarter enforcement

We believe that smarter enforcement, not just tougher enforcement, is more effective in preventing crime in the longer term.

Drawing on lessons learned about the best ways to tackle other criminal activity such as terrorism and drug trafficking, Fauna & Flora has been working with criminologists to pioneer situational crime prevention as an approach to tackling illegal wildlife trade, with pilot projects in Vietnam, Liberia, Nicaragua and Central Asia.

Situational crime prevention is a proactive approach that aims, through careful analysis of the unique context of the illegal activity in question, to prevent a crime from taking place. In the case of illegal hunting or harvesting of wildlife species, this means preventing wildlife loss, rather than detecting and punishing the crime after irreparable harm has already been caused.

Union Island gecko. © Jacob Bock / Fauna & Flora

Protecting a prime target of the pet trade

The critically endangered Union Island gecko is endemic to St Vincent and the Grenadines. In 2015, a surge in international trade driven by demand from the USA, Japan and Europe caused the wild population to plummet.

The presence of community wardens from the Union Island Environmental Alliance, supported by Fauna & Flora, and increased coordination with law enforcement agencies are now helping to protect the gecko in its natural habitat. A species recovery plan was developed with the Union Island community, and this has guided our work – which ranges from halting illegal exploitation of reptiles to using the gecko as a flagship for conserving Union Island’s remarkably biodiverse forest.

Our close collaboration with the government of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines also led to the listing of this species on Appendix I of CITES (the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora) in 2019 – an important milestone in tackling cross-border trade in this gecko. As a result of this collective effort, Union Island gecko numbers recorded in the 2022 population survey had bounced back to pre-2018 levels, from 10,000 to 18,000 individuals.

More about the initiative

Union Island gecko. © Jacob Bock / Fauna & Flora

Engaging consumers and businesses

To reduce demand for wildlife products, we facilitate behaviour change through highly targeted and strategically designed communications that are based on robust evidence.

By working with communities and the private sector to understand the motivations and drivers of trade, we tailor messages to improve understanding and encourage positive actions for wildlife, without causing harm to communities.

Chimpanzee © Gerdie / Adobe Stock

Help us put a stop to illegal wildlife trade

The illegal wildlife trade is threatening our planet’s remarkable biodiversity.

If you represent a charitable trust or foundation and would like to talk to a member of our team, contact [email protected].

Or support our work today to help keep wild populations safe and address the underlying causes of this urgent problem.

Donate today

Chimpanzee © Gerdie / Adobe Stock