The Wildlife Justice Commission is publishing a new report on the convergence of wildlife crime with other forms of organised crime: Convergence of wildlife crime with other forms of organised crime: A 2023 Review. This report builds on our first crime convergence report, published in 2021, which analysed a set of 12 case studies, and illustrated the varied ways that wildlife crime can overlap or intersect with other serious and organised crimes.
At that time, there were mostly anecdotal reports of the convergence of wildlife crime with other forms of organised crime, and limited data or analysis of the issue. The intention of our 2021 report was to document a series of concrete examples where convergence was known to have occurred, to analyse this important intersection. In the intervening two years, the body of evidence has grown with further research reports and case studies published on this topic and commitments to address wildlife crime convergence adopted in the international policy framework.
This new report revisits the issue, building on the Wildlife Justice Commission’s previous work on wildlife crime convergence by presenting additional analysis and insights from three in-depth case studies, based on open-source research and intelligence collected during Wildlife Justice Commission investigations. These three case studies add to the knowledge base on this issue, which will continue to develop globally as more cases are detected and analysed.
Crime convergence typologies
As in the first report, the Wildlife Justice Commission applied a framework of five key typologies to describe the type of connection between the converging crimes: opportunistic, diversification, transactional, embedded, and career shift. Classifying convergence in this way can assist in understanding the relationship between the crime types and assessing the level of threat a criminal network poses, which can also help inform law enforcement strategies to address the problem from an organised crime point of view.
The first case study of this new report represents a diversification of commodities involving elephant ivory, pangolin scales, illegal sand mining, and protection rackets in Southeast Asia and Africa. The second case study illustrates an embedded convergence between rhino poaching, corruption, and money laundering in Africa. The third case study suggests a transactional convergence between seafood businesses and drug trafficking networks and an embedded convergence involving shark, sea cucumber, illicit drugs, tax evasion, money laundering, and corruption in Central America.
These cases continue to demonstrate that criminal networks may have a range of motivations to diversify their criminal activities and form new partnerships or alliances, infiltrate new markets, or exploit gaps, vulnerabilities, or opportunities. They also show that corruption, illicit financial flows, and money laundering are common underlying factors present in almost all organised wildlife crime cases.
The Wildlife Justice Commission’s 2021 report presented six recommendations to assist law enforcement authorities and policy makers in strengthening their focus on the intersection of wildlife crime with other serious and organised crimes. These recommendations remain relevant, particularly as the international policy framework increasingly recognises the need to research this nexus and strengthen the collection of information on wildlife trafficking patterns and flows.
- More consideration should be given to intelligence collection and governments developing their own comprehensive wildlife datasets.
- Organised crime group mapping should be an essential intelligence tool to identify how and where convergence may be occurring, and to tackle wildlife crime from the point of view of organised crime.
- Multi-agency cooperation, joint investigations and task forces should be utilised where appropriate to bring the necessary law enforcement expertise to target convergence.
- Consideration should be given to using alternative legislation relating to the convergent or ancillary offences where relevant and appropriate.
- Financial and corruption investigations should be conducted in parallel or in response to wildlife crime cases.
- Greater utilisation of specialised investigation techniques such as communications interception, undercover operations, the use of listening and tracking devices, and controlled deliveries.