This module is a resource for lecturers  


Key issues


Setting the scene

Criminal justice is an integral part of any strategy to prevent and combat wildlife trafficking. The criminal justice response to wildlife trafficking involves the detection, reporting, and investigation of this crime, the arrest and prosecution of offenders, and the trial and sentencing of defendants, including possible appeals. It also extends to measures to prevent wildlife trafficking and stop offenders in their way. It comprises the work of multiple national agencies as well as cross-border cooperation between States. Civil society and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) also play a crucial role in the detection and prevention of wildlife trafficking.

Criminal offences and their enforcement are at the centre of the criminal justice response to wildlife trafficking. Law enforcement involves any government action or intervention taken to determine or respond to non-compliance with relevant laws. It is the most immediate and often the most visible way to suppress wildlife trafficking. It raises the costs to perpetrators through increasing the probability of being caught, the probability of conviction and the sanctions that apply if convicted. Accordingly, well-respected and highly skilled police, wildlife and forestry enforcement, and border control services, are prerequisites for the proper functioning and positive perception of criminal justice.

Criminal law, its enforcement and the punishment of offenders are, however, no panacea for wildlife trafficking and there are significant limitations to what criminal justice can do to stop this crime. Measures to reduce demand, raise awareness, engage communities in source, transit, and destination countries, along with other measures - such as the provision of sustainable alternative livelihood options - to prevent wildlife trafficking play an equally important role. Furthermore, it has to be acknowledged that many countries do not view the development of comprehensive laws and policies and their enforcement as a priority and do not allocate sufficient resources and personnel to the fight against wildlife trafficking. Elsewhere, the criminal justice response is severely compromised by corruption or lack of resources to meaningfully pursue justice. In some jurisdictions, wildlife trafficking is not sufficiently documented, analysed, or understood, which further hampers the adoption of meaningful policy responses and practical measures (for further reading on crime prevention and criminal justice in general, see the E4J University Module Series on Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice).


The sub-pages to this section provide a descriptive overview of the key issues for lecturers to cover with their students when teaching on this topic:

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