Ghada Waly

Director-General/Executive Director


Launch of the 2020 World Wildlife Crime Report

  10 July 2020

Secretary-General Higuero,

Director Montesi,

Director Schomaker,


Ladies and gentlemen,

Thank you for joining us in person and remotely for the launch of the 2020 UNODC World Wildlife Crime Report, which is happening at a time of unprecedented global challenges.

To date, 12 million people have been infected and more than half-a-million people have died from COVID-19, a zoonotic disease that spread from animals to humans.

As UN Secretary-General António Guterres has said, nature is sending us a clear message.

New research presented this week by our colleagues at UNEP shows how habitat loss and wildlife exploitation — including its illegal trade — are making it easier for diseases to pass from other species to humans.

The World Wildlife Crime Report represents UNODC’s contribution to UN system-wide efforts to address this existential threat to our health, our planet and our future.

From elephants and rhinos, to pangolins, glass eels, and rosewood: organized crime groups are sabotaging planet for profit through the poaching, trafficking and illicit sale of wildlife, forest products and marine resources.

Nearly 6,000 different species of fauna and flora have been seized between 1999 and 2018.

No single species accounts for more than 5 percent of these seizure incidents. Nearly every country in the world plays a role in the illicit wildlife trade.

The report estimates the annual illicit income at retail level generated by the ivory trade at 400 million dollars. The income generated by rhino horn is estimated at 230 million dollars.

Transnational organized crime networks are reaping the profits of wildlife crime, but it is the poor who are paying the price.

Wildlife crime sets in motion a vicious circle jeopardizing our health, security and development.

Organized crime groups often take advantage of the poverty and adverse social conditions affecting communities living near wildlife. Lacking legitimate income-generating opportunities, they are vulnerable to the temptation to poach.

The exploitation of natural resources is unsustainable, depleting critical ecosystems and further driving poverty.

Increased poverty compels societies to further encroach upon nature, which increases the chances of another global pandemic.

The current pandemic, according to IMF estimates, will cost the global economy nine trillion dollars over the next two years.

To stop the devastation, we need to increase support to promote sustainable alternative livelihoods and actively involve local communities in safeguarding biodiversity.

In parallel, we need to assist governments to strengthen legislation and enforcement capacity, and reinforce international cooperation and information sharing for cross-border investigations.

We also need to improve public and consumer awareness of the size and impact of the problem, including through support to civil society organizations.  

UNODC’s 2020 World Wildlife Crime Report provides a comprehensive overview of the state of illicit wildlife trade, and recommendations for strengthening such responses.

The content and approach of the report are the result of our strong collaboration with partners at the International Consortium on Combating Wildlife Crime: the CITES Secretariat, the World Bank, Interpol and the World Customs Organization. 

The report also benefitted from the feedback of experts whom we convened under our Scientific Advisory Group. We are very grateful to all the parties who engaged with us.

I would also like to thank our partners from the European Commission, the United States, the United Kingdom, Germany and France for their generous support, which made the 2020 edition of the report possible.

This report follows on the 2016 UNODC World Wildlife Crime Report, which presented the first comprehensive global overview of these threats.

Four years on, governments continue to face many challenges in preventing and countering wildlife, forest crime and fisheries crime.

For example, despite an international ban on the trade of all pangolin species, seizures of pangolin scales increased tenfold in the period between 2014 and 2018.

Pangolins, sold for consumption in wet markets, have recently been in the spotlight for their potential role in the spread of COVID-19 from animals to humans.

But provided adequate national legislation is in place, these crimes can fall under the scope of the UN Convention against Transnational Organized Crime and the UN Convention against Corruption, unlocking access to a number of international cooperation tools.

Related offences, such as corruption, money laundering and other economic crimes, can be used to pursue wildlife crimes.

These tools are even more relevant today as we are starting to see evidence of the converging of markets for certain wildlife products, like pangolin scales and African elephant ivory, as well as convergence with other forms of serious transnational and organized crimes. 

Consistent legislation across regions is also needed to avoid geographical displacement effects, where traffickers exploit legislative gaps between countries. 

Legal markets can be used to launder species caught in the wild and further the illegal trade. This has been the case for rosewood, European eels, and some big cats, where a large part of the illegal supply is eventually sold in legal markets due to a lack of supply-chain security.

Such vulnerabilities need to be identified and addressed.

Responses on the enforcement side must be complemented by parallel actions to increase awareness, reduce demand and provide legitimate livelihood opportunities. 

Improving local community engagement can serve as an effective first line of defence.

Through its Global Programme for Combating Wildlife and Forest Crime, UNODC partners with countries to provide policy guidance and technical assistance, supporting responses from wildlife crime scene to the courtroom.

Thanks to support from several donors, including the EU, Belgium, Germany, France, Norway, the United Kingdom, and the United States, the Programme provided technical assistance to more than 30 countries in Africa, Asia and Latin America last year.

Our work included training more than 1,600 criminal justice professionals; developing new practical guides for investigators and prosecutors of wildlife crime in Namibia, Kenya and Peru; and supporting the investigation of criminal cases in South-East Asia.

In addition, UNODC support to stop wildlife crime is augmented by the Office’s work to prevent and dismantle organized crime groups, and counter maritime crime, cybercrime, corruption and money laundering.

Our programmes strengthening border management, container control and supply chain security are also critical in preventing the cross-border movement of illicit goods.

Ladies and gentlemen,

To protect people and planet in line with the Sustainable Development Goals, and to build back better from the COVID-19 crisis, we cannot afford to ignore wildlife crime.

The 2020 World Wildlife Crime Report can help to keep this threat high on the international agenda, and increase support for governments to adopt the necessary legislation and develop the inter-agency coordination and capacities needed to tackle wildlife crime offences.

I encourage Member States and all our partners to use this report as well as the support provided by UNODC’s Global Programme to take effective action.

 Thank you.