Illegal Wildlife Trade

Wildlife trade is perhaps the most immediate threat to animals in many parts of the world. Around the globe, wildlife is being bought and sold on an increasingly massive scale as pets, meat, and food, as medicine, furs, feathers, skins, and trophies.

Our Goal

We aim to reduce poaching pressure on wildlife populations. To do this, we are employing a few main strategies:

  • Document the crisis.
  • Take action to stop the killing.
  • Stop the trafficking.
  • Stop the demand.
  • Influence both national and intergovernmental policy.

Why WCS?

50+ country programs

WCS has good relationships with key governments and agencies and a growing influence on wildlife trafficking in the global policy arena. We also have country programs in nearly 60 nations, which are active at key sources sites, working on the ground to stop poaching.

227 lbs.

WCS has developed or helped develop intelligence networks in several countries to inform and facilitate effective anti-poaching efforts. In 2014, our Wildlife Crimes Unit aided in a major arrest in Indonesia, which yielded the largest cache of manta gill plates in the country’s history—227 lbs. worth.

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Photo Credit: Julie Larsen Maher © WCS

On Our Strategies

The primary focus of WCS's trafficking work is on terrestrial animals that are traded globally, typically of high commercial value, protected under national or international laws or treaties, and where WCS brings specific expertise; this includes elephants, tigers, tortoises, freshwater turtles, parrots, and pangolins.

Document the Crisis

WCS conducts scientifically-sound population surveys for many species (like elephants and tigers), monitoring illegal killing, and conducting market surveys of species in trade. Our reports have been critical in policy advocacy. In 2013, a scientific study and report on the perilous status of Asian and African forest elephants and a WCS-led analysis of the shocking forest elephant decline in Central Africa was released. It was highly influential at the meeting of CITES member states, or the Conference of Parties, that year.

Stop the Killing

WCS manages protected areas, leads anti-poaching initiatives, builds local capacity, and monitors law enforcement efforts through the use of SMART, a combination of computer software and training materials designed to help local authorities in protected areas. This has long been one of WCS's core strengths and will remain so, and we are actively engaged in this work in Africa, Asia, and Latin America. We've had measurable success in reducing poaching.

Stop the Trafficking

WCS focuses on major wildlife trafficking routes, setting our actions in a transnational context. The traffic routes that we focus on involving Asia and Africa are:

  • Indo-Burma (China, Viet Nam, Lao PDR, Cambodia, Thailand, Myanmar)
  • SE Asian pangolin trafficking (Indonesia, Malaysia, Viet Nam, China)
  • Asian Tiger trafficking: Trans-Himalayan (India, Nepal, China)
  • SE Asia (Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand, Lao PDR, Viet Nam, China)
  • Trans-continental African rhino horn trafficking (South Africa, Mozambique, Viet Nam, Thailand, Malaysia, China).

Stop the Demand

WCS works to ensure that governments and intergovernmental organizations prioritize a demand-reduction focus that is evidence-based, measurable, strategic, and culturally appropriate for the relevant consumers (rather than only generic awareness). In China, we work to reduce the demand for ivory, in particular through Chinese social media platforms, with a focus on affecting behavioral change.

Influence Both National and Intergovernmental Policy

WCS has significant experience with and influence in key international policy forums of relevance to wildlife crime. Our staff hold influential positions in IUCN, have deep knowledge and years of experience with CITES and the UN, and sit on the U.S. Government's Advisory Council on Wildlife Trafficking. We use this experience and influence to help ensure a supportive policy environment for our efforts to combat the illegal killing and trafficking in wildlife.

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