Environment: Commission consults on how EU can fight against dramatic increase in wildlife trafficking

10 Feb 2014 02:48 PM

The Commission has launched a public consultation on how the EU can be more effective in combating wildlife trafficking. This comes in response to a recent global surge in poaching and illegal wildlife trade, which is now at unprecedented levels for some species. More than 1000 rhinoceroses were poached in South Africa in 2013, compared to 13 in 2007, for example, and rhino horn is now more valuable than gold. The EU is a major destination market and an important transit point for illegal wildlife products, with organized crime playing an increasing role.

Environment Commissioner Janez Potočnik said: "Wildlife trafficking takes a terrible toll on biodiversity and we need to find ways of taking more decisive action. This consultation is a first step towards what I hope will be a major change in our approach."

EU Commissioner for Home Affairs Cecilia Malmström said. "Wildlife trafficking creates large profits for international organised crime groups. The Communication we adopt today sets out how all actors can work together to fight this crime more effectively."

The EU has been active in the fight against illegal wildlife trade over the past decade, adopting strict trade rules for endangered species and providing large-scale support to anti-wildlife-trafficking efforts in developing countries. In Africa, the EU has committed more than EUR 500 million for biodiversity conservation over the past 30 years, with a portfolio of on-going projects worth approximately EUR 160 million.

Wildlife crime is highly lucrative, and prosecutions are rare. The growing demand for illegal products has devastating consequences for a number of species already under threat. The changing scale of the problem has raised questions about how the EU can be more effective in fighting against wildlife trafficking. The Commission is therefore seeking views on ten questions related to wildlife trafficking, including the adequacy of the current framework, tools that might strengthen existing efforts to fight the problem, how the EU in particular can help, improving our knowledge and data, and the possibility of stronger sanctions.

Comments can be submitted at http://ec.europa.eu/yourvoice/ until 10 April 2014.

Next Steps

The results of this consultation and the outcome of a conference to be held on 10 April 2014 will feed into a review of existing EU policies and measures in this area, with a view to helping the EU play a more effective role in addressing the problem.


Wildlife trafficking (the illegal cross-border trade in biological resources taken from the wild, including trade in timber and marine species) is not a new phenomenon, but its scale, nature and impacts have changed considerably in recent years.

Wildlife trafficking has become one of the most profitable transnational criminal activities globally, driven by a high and growing demand for wildlife products, notably in Asia. Low levels of awareness, low risk of detection and low sanction levels make it particularly attractive for organised crime networks in the EU and beyond.

The number of African elephants illegally killed has doubled over the last decade, with 22 000 killed by poachers in 2012; rhinoceros poaching has escalated in South Africa, with rhino horn selling at EUR 40 000/kilo; and poaching now accounts for 78 % of Sumatran tiger deaths. Tiger bones sell for EUR 900/kilo.

Wildlife trafficking deprives many of the world’s most marginalised people, including indigenous communities, of important opportunities for sustainable livelihoods. Its links with corruption and illicit money flows, through money laundering for instance, undermine the rule of law and good governance. It also fuels regional instability in Central Africa, where some militia groups are using revenues from wildlife trafficking to fund their activities. It undermines biodiversity and therefore threatens the health of vital ecosystems.

For more information:

You can fill in the consultation here:


See also:



MEMO Q&A: MEMO/14/91