Born Free Foundation - Keep Wildlife in the Wild

End Wildlife Trafficking

Recommendations for an EU Action Plan on Illegal Wildlife Trade

“The support of individual MEPS will be critical in ensuring that the EU takes a strong and effective stand against this global criminal activity.” - Will Travers, President, Born Free Foundation

The Trade

Worth over EUR17 billion a year by some estimates, the international illegal trade in wildlife attracts and supports organised criminal networks at local, national and international levels.  It also undermines local and national economic and political stability, and deprives rural communities of valuable natural resources. And, of course, it leads to environmental destruction and the breakdown of ecosystems, imperils wild species and causes extensive animal suffering.


High Value Products

The number of rhinos poached in South Africa has risen year on year from 13 in 2007 to 1,215 in 2014

High value products such as ivory, rhino horn and tiger skins make up a large part of the trade. The profits that can be made from these items fuel illegal hunting, corruption and large scale smuggling. Rhino horn is currently worth more by weight than gold, and rhino poaching in South Africa has risen continuously from 2007 to 2014. Meanwhile 100,000 elephants were killed across the continent in three years from 2010, representing at least one fifth of the known wild population. Similar stories can be told for products ranging from tiger bones and big cat skins to pangolin scales and turtle shells.

Wild Pets

The global trade in wild pets is a multi-billion dollar industry, with a significant amount of trade being illegal and unregulated. Wild animals from around the world are widely traded and kept as pets in the EU. Regulatory regimes vary but often fail to safeguard wild populations, protect the welfare of the animals involved, or adequately mitigate the effects of accidental or deliberate release into the wild. Captive wild animals may also pose a risk to human health and safety, and to the health of other domesticated and native wild animals.


A study in 2010 estimated that 5 tonnes of bushmeat was smuggled through the Charles De Gaulle airport in Paris every month.

The illegal hunting of wild animals for food and the trade in their meat, have become major threats to the conservation of many species across the tropics. The urbanisation of human populations and increased access to wildlife habitats, have resulted in the development of large scale commercial bushmeat hunting operations. In many areas this is a direct threat to wild populations of primates, elephants and other animals, and is linked to national and international criminal networks and corruption. The European Union is the destination for a significant amount of illegal bushmeat.

EU Involvement

“Decisive and urgent action is now needed to tackle the illegal wildlife trade in endangered fauna and flora.” – Declaration of the London Conference on the Illegal Wildlife Trade, signed by the EU

Wildlife trafficking takes place on a large scale within or through the EU, with over 2,500 seizures of wildlife products made every year, likely representing the tip of the iceberg. More direct and concerted action by the EU and its Member States is needed to address this issue. The EU also plays a critical role in efforts to tackle this problem at an international level, and its commitment and progressive approach can have a real impact globally. The EU needs to continue to set high standards for legislative and regulatory mechanisms and effective enforcement measures, both internally and internationally. The EU also needs to use its influence to ensure that the illegal trade in wildlife is acknowledged as a high priority in the international political arena.


Action Plan

The proposed Action Plan on Illegal Wildlife Trade is a potentially important tool for ensuring that the EU remains front and centre of global efforts to tackle wildlife trafficking. The Plan should contain detailed provisions to ensure the EU has its own house in order. It should also identify resources and capacity the EU can bring to bear to help other countries reduce the problem, set measurable targets, and support associated international agencies and agreements.  It needs to explicitly include measures to address the welfare of live animals in trade, and the impacts of international investment and aid projects. And it needs to recognise at an institutional level the large scale and organised nature of wildlife crime and its implications for governance and corruption.

What MEPs Can Do

  • We need the support of MEPs to ensure that the proposed Action Plan on Illegal Wildlife Trafficking is robust and farsighted, and places the EU at the forefront of the struggle against illegal wildlife trade. MEPs should:
  • Support the MEPs for Wildlife Interest Group, and sign the associated pledge to demonstrate their commitment to curb wildlife trafficking in Europe;
  • Call upon the European Commission to establish an Action Plan on Illegal Wildlife Trade, and to ensure Member States have the necessary resources and expertise to fully implement it;
  • Call upon Member State governments to support the Commission Action Plan on Illegal Wildlife Trade, and develop complementary National Action Plans.


Summary French Translation


Summary German Translation


'End Wildlife Trafficking' Full Report


'End Wildlife Trafficking' Updated Report

Campaign graphics courtesy of George Logan Photography and WCRS

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