Building an Effective Criminal Justice Response to Wildlife Trafficking: Experiences from the ASEAN Region

Published date01 July 2017
Date01 July 2017
AuthorGiovanni Broussard
Building an Effective Criminal Justice Response to
Wildlife Trafficking: Experiences from the ASEAN
Giovanni Broussard*
South East Asia and more specifically the Association
of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) region plays a
crucial role in the supply chain of the illegal wildlife
trade as a transit, destination and also origin of
endangered species. The capacity of ASEAN members
to respond to wildlife crimes as a cohesive region
rather than a conglomeration of nations is hampered
by marked differences in the way in which each coun-
try frames the problem, designs laws and enforces
them. Corruption undermines the implementation of
the Convention on International Trade in Endangered
Species in every step of the wildlife trade supply chain.
The regional response from criminal justice systems so
far remains weak and the use of international tools like
the United Nations Convention on Transnational
Organized Crime is critical for an improvement of the
status quo. This article examines the existing policy
frameworks and provides some recommendations to
address the most urgent shortcomings, with a focus on
improved criminal justice responses in the ASEAN
Over the past few years, the interest of the international
community in the fight against wildlife trafficking has
grown at a fast pace. What was previously an interest in
the survival of certain species has more recently trans-
formed into a concern for the criminology that under-
pins this issue. A field that was previously populated by
conservation specialists has now attracted a plethora of
law enforcement practitioners, criminologists, rule of
law academics and crime journalists. In 2016, the con-
ference of parties of the Convention on International
Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora
(CITES) was hailed as the largest ever wildlife confer-
bringing together a diverse combination of 3,500
delegates from governments, nongovernmental
organizations (NGOs), international organizations,
activists and journalists from 180 countries. While the
issue of sustainable trade remains at the core of CITES,
the concern about how to combat criminal networks
involved in wildlife trafficking became a dominant
The involvement of criminal networks in the supply
chains of wildlife has been extensively analysed.
in other forms of transnational organized crime, the
smuggling of wildlife requires entrepreneurial struc-
tures to organize the logistic trails of contraband. The
geography of the illegal wildlife chain of custody with
the source of wildlife being located in different contin-
ents from its markets requires specialized nodes, com-
plex inter-node interactions and the identification of
global black spots where government controls over illicit
operations are particularly ineffective. These networks
are difficult to map, but the understanding of the net-
works is crucial to correct for a traditional law enforce-
ment and regulatory focus on end-points rather than
Therefore, it becomes clear that traditional
interventions such as training anti-poaching rangers in
protected areas should be combined with more robust
investments on investigating the criminal networks
involved in the supply chain. This is why it was so
important that the latest CITES Conference of the Par-
ties (CoP) brought together a broader range of experts
in the fight for the conservation of species, whereby
representatives of the environmental and scientific
authorities in each country were sitting side by side with
representatives of the criminal justice system, such as
police officers, intelligence analysts, prosecutors, anti-
corruption and anti-money launderingpractitioners.
While some criminal justice professionals may still be
sceptical about the seriousness of this crime, others are
busy trying to convince their colleagues that this is a
real criminal business with increased sophistication of
its modus operandi. Some practitioners indicate that
criminal networks involved in the trafficking of wildlife
*Corresponding author.
CITES, ‘Largest ever World Wildlife Conference Hailed as a “Game
Changer”’, Press Release (2016), found at: <
See, e.g., L. Elliott, ‘Criminal Networks and Illicit Chains of Custody
in Transnational Environmental Crime’, in: L. Elliott and W.H. Schae-
dla (eds.), Handbook of Transnational Environmental Crime (Edward
Elgar, 2016), 24.
Ibid., at 39.
ª2017 John Wiley & Sons Ltd, 9600 Garsington Road, Oxford OX4 2DQ, UK and 350 Main Street, Malden, MA 02148, USA.
RECIEL 26 (2) 2017. ISSN 2050-0386 DOI: 10.1111/reel.12203
Review of European Community & International Environmental Law

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