Wildlife and forest crime is a serious and growing problem, posing a significant threat to the environment and negatively impacting economic and social development, security and governance. It comprises the fourth largest illegal trade worldwide after arms, drugs and human trafficking, and frequently links with other forms of serious crime such as fraud, money laundering, and corruption.
Transnational organized criminal networks are moving poached or illegally harvested wildlife using a variety of smuggling techniques, often by means of existing infrastructures and well-developed routes used for the trafficking of drugs, people, weapons, counterfeit goods and other forms of contraband. These gangs rob communities of their natural resources and impact livelihoods and food security of local populations. It is widely recognized that corruption is one of the most critical factors facilitating every aspect of wildlife and forest crime. If wildlife and forest crime, and the corruption facilitating and driving it, are not addressed now, many species of wild fauna and flora will soon become extinct and the criminal networks will continue acting with impunity.
Recognizing that every time a seizure of fresh ivory, horn or timber is made, it is too late as the animal is dead or the tree cut, UNODC's primary response to corruption related to wildlife and forest crime is preventive. In this regard, it is helping Member States to put in place a variety of effective anti-corruption measures such as strengthening and enforcing legislative frameworks that address both corruption and wildlife trafficking; strengthening measures to prevent corruption in wildlife and forestry management as well as in the transport of wildlife and forest products; human resources management reforms in the public sector; and awareness raising, sensitization and capacity building of staff wildlife and forestry agencies and communities impacted by wildlife and forestry crime
For those cases that cannot be prevented, UNODC is working to build linkages between wildlife and forest crime investigators and prosecutors and corruption and money laundering investigators and prosecutors. By increasing cooperation and the understanding of corruption and anti-money-laundering issues by the wildlife and forest crime investigators and prosecutors, this approach will enhance the possibilities for prosecution of more senior member of criminal gangs involved in the wildlife trade and of public officials who facilitate these crimes.
The UN Convention against Corruption (UNCAC) provides the global framework for these efforts embodying innovative and globally accepted anti-corruption standards and provides a comprehensive approach to preventing and combatting corruption in all its forms.