One of the most serious environmental crimes, wildlife trafficking encompasses all stages in the supply chain, from taking wild fauna from its habitat, to trading, importing, exporting, processing, possessing, obtaining and consuming of these species. Driven by an extraordinary low-risk/high-profit ratio, the trafficking of endangered species is estimated to generate over EUR 4.4 billion in profits globally per year (2011).
Because the global demand for such commodities is high, whether as luxury items or for use in traditional medicine, this illicit trade attracts transnational organised crime networks.
While in its character and its scale this trade resembles other types of global criminal activities, such as trafficking in drugs, human beings, firearms and counterfeit goods, it benefits nonetheless from lower levels of awareness, lower risks of detection and lower sanction levels.
The EU is a major transit point for the illegal trade in wildlife, in particular between Africa and Asia. In 2013, 1468 seizures (more than half with an international dimension) were reported by 15 EU countries. The main types of commodities seized were medicines (derived from both plants and animals), ivory, corals and live reptiles. The European fashion industry accounts for 96% of the trade in python skins…
In 2015 Europol supported Operation COBRA III, the largest-ever coordinated international law-enforcement operation targeting the illegal trade in endangered species. The operation recovered a huge amount of wildlife contraband, including over 12 tonnes of elephant ivory and at least 119 rhino horns.
Excerpt from ILLICIT TRAFFICKING IN ENDANGERED ANIMAL SPECIES, Europol Press Release, Nov. 2016