Combating Corruption in Wildlife Crime


Equipment presentation by UNODC. Photo: Juozas Cernius


Nairobi, Kenya: Every organization, no matter how well managed, is exposed to corruption risks. If not proactively managed, these risks may be realized and corruption may spread through the organization. Brig. (Rtd.) John Waweru, Director General of the Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS), is working with the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) to reduce the negative impacts of corruption on wildlife and forestry in Kenya and the wider region.  

Many countries in Eastern Africa have been experiencing a major wildlife poaching crisis, seeing numbers in flagship species deteriorating every day. Corruption in the wildlife sector is seen as a major enabler of wildlife poaching and trafficking. Wildlife and forest management authorities are the first line of response. With a historical mandate for conservation as their primary objective; however, they are challenged by the organized crime and associated corruption with which they are now faced.  

Looking for systemic change solutions, UNODC’s Global Programme for Combating Wildlife and Forest Crime and the Corruption and Economic Crime Branch pioneered a corruption risk-based approach for wildlife authorities to strengthen internal mechanisms and systems to prevent corruption from occurring. This approach is a modified version of ISO 31000. It is designed to set achievable goals which significantly reduce the likelihood that specific corruption risks will occur, while at the same time gradually strengthening institutional capacity to identify and prevent future corruption risks.  

Kenya Wildlife Service partnered with UNODC to pilot this approach and has seen major positive changes within the institution over the last three years. Key outcomes of the corruption-risk based programme have been the development of the KWS Code of Conduct, KWS Corruption Prevention Policy, KWS service-wide survey on perception and experience of corruption, and the “Armed Wing’s Service Standing Orders and Disciplinary Code”, all of which are integrated into KWS daily operations.  

The anti-corruption and enforcement work in KWS has contributed to Kenya’s major drop in poaching and trafficking levels. Seeing such positive results in Kenya, UNODC has supported the replication of this approach in Botswana, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, Tanzania and Uganda. The European Union and the Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs (INL) of the U.S. Department of State have been major contributors to this work. 



To support KWS in managing the surge in poaching levels and deep drop in wildlife-related tourism levels as a result of COVID-19, UNODC has recently procured and handed over equipment to KWS that can aid with maintaining operations with minimal-to-low maintenance costs. The equipment handed over includes 15 motorcycles as well as 180 tires and tubes for vehicles for the KWS patrol fleet. 

Brig. (Rtd.) John Waweru, KWS Director General, indicated that, “…the equipment donated has strongly contributed to reinforce the work of KWS patrol units in the national parks and reserves, allowing us to promptly respond to and prevent poaching and wildlife conflict incidents”. 

This COVID-19 intervention has been made possible through European Union support and flexibility in aligning enforcement priorities toward addressing COVID-19 impact. 

This initiative, through the Global Programme for Combating Wildlife and Forest Crime, not only assists Member States to achieve SDG Target 15.7 on taking urgent action to end poaching and trafficking of protected species of flora and fauna and addressing the demand and supply of illegal wildlife products, but it also assists in the achievement of SDG Target 16.6 on substantially reducing corruption and bribery in all of their forms and SDG Target 16.a on strengthening relevant national institutions for capacity building at all levels to fight crime. 

For more information about how UNODC is assisting Member States in addressing SDG Target 15.7, please click the link here for information on the Global Programme for Combating Wildlife and Forest Crime as well as the link here for the 2020 World Wildlife Crime Report. More information on UNODC's work related to combating corruption can be found here.