Wildlife crime: the soft underbelly of organised crime

Over the past two decades, wildlife crime has become a form of transnational organised crime, generating billions of dollars annually and affecting almost every country. The Wildlife Justice Commission has been committed to addressing wildlife crime since 2015. One of the key elements to its success is the use of intelligence analysis, which gives the Wildlife Justice Commission a unique edge and valuable insight into wildlife crime.

Although intelligence analysis is commonly used in response to other forms of serious and organised crime, it is virtually absent from the wildlife crime enforcement toolbox. Intelligence analysis is an incredibly important force multiplier where resources are low and the problem is vast, as it allows for investigations to remain focussed on the greatest criminal threat. Therefore, intelligence must form part of any overarching strategy to tackle wildlife crime. Yet, the lack of both technical and human capacity is a major obstacle to the widespread use of intelligence analysis, and as a result, there are major gaps in the global intelligence picture of wildlife crime.

The Wildlife Justice Commission demonstrates the value intelligence analysis can bring to transnational, organised and complex criminal investigations.

Through its intelligence-led approach, the Wildlife Justice Commission has documented the convergence of wildlife crime with other forms of transnational organised crime. It has uncovered evidence of criminal networks that are dealing in wildlife alongside other illicit commodities such as drugs, human trafficking networks that are opportunistically engaging in wildlife crime, and links between wildlife crime and fraud, corruption, and money laundering.

The Wildlife Justice Commission’s encounters have shown that wildlife criminals are often not as operationally savvy as other types of organised criminals, and wildlife crime laws in some countries provide law enforcement powers that do not exist for other offences. As such, the cross-cutting nature of wildlife crime can present a potential opportunity for law enforcement agencies to infiltrate networks that may be engaging in multiple forms of organised crime.

This briefing paper serves to highlight how intelligence analysis can be leveraged to better understand the convergence of wildlife crime with other forms of organised crime, and the need for a more coordinated global law enforcement response to address these crimes.

Wildlife Justice Commission

How can intelligence and analytical techniques add value when managing the threat from organised crime?

The Wildlife Justice Commission manages the threat from organised crime through a risk assessment process it applies to measure and classify the criminal means and motivations of each subject based on several criteria. This assessment helps to determine the level subjects are operating at to ensure resources are allocated proportionately in response to the identified threat.

This methodology also seeks to understand the impact that the removal of one or two individuals will have upon the operations of the network, for crime disruption purposes.