Corruption: The elephant in the room

Posted on September, 28 2016

CoP17 event on corruption along the wildlife trafficking value chain
There won’t be progress in the control of wildlife trade until corruption is dealt with. This was the key message of a side event on day five of the world’s largest wildlife trade conference.

Entitled ‘Corruption: The elephant in the room’, the event was chaired by WWF’s Colman O’Criodain, and featured presentations from the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), Sri Lankan Customs, Kenya Wildlife Service and the European Commission.

Case studies provided from Sri Lanka and Kenya painted a picture of corruption all along the wildlife trafficking chain, prompting suggestions from UNODC’s Tim Steele that any attempts to address corruption must examine the entire system, supported with strong law enforcement measures that can secure prosecutions, convictions and ultimately imprisonment.

However, the upside is that recent interventions in Sri Lanka and Kenya are paying off. In Sri Lanka, detailed investigations of customs documentation have led to the seizure of illicit wildlife products, while in Kenya a recently passed wildlife law means has increased the penalties for wildlife criminals.

Wildlife crime is global and it’s organised. Efforts to combat it require cooperation across sectors and borders. While the bad news is corruption is everywhere, the good news is we can do something about it.
A side event at CITES CoP17 paints a picture of corruption across the wildlife trafficking value chain.
© Eitan Prince / WWF
Illegal wildlife products seized by UK Border Force during COBRA III operation against wildlife crime
© Sarah Goddard / WWF