December 27, 2020

Will Covid-19 Tame Wildlife Trade?

Wildlife trade, whether legal or illegal, is an extremely complex phenomenon, with an intricate net of trade and smuggling routes, various actors involved in hunting, collecting, poaching and breeding of animals, stockpiling, wholesale, processing and marketing of animal products or products containing animal derivatives or parts.

Since its outbreak, the COVID-19 pandemic’s interlinkages with illegal wildlife trade have caught a lot of attention. The WHO has determined that COVID-19, just like SARS, Ebola, Bird Flu, and MERS, originated from an animal. The urgent need to address the problem is highlighted, requiring significant enforcement efforts at the local and national level along with transnational cooperation to make them successful.

Recognising that COVID-19 may have emerged from wildlife markets, the governments of China, Vietnam and Korea have all introduced some form of regulation to control wildlife trade since the outbreak, each of which goes some way to supporting wildlife conservation. These actions provide examples for other countries to consider.

Action needed at the global level

The COVID-19 crisis demonstrates that systemic changes must be made to address the environmental drivers of pandemics.

The World Wildlife Fund (WWF) proposes that relevant authorities, private sector and civil society need to take urgent steps to:

  • Stopping illegal, unregulated and high-risk wildlife trade and consumption, and enforcing hygienic and safe practices across markets and restaurants;
  • Stopping land conversion, deforestation and fragmentation across natural ecosystems, while sustainably feeding a growing global population;
  • Building a new relationship between people and nature through a sustainable and just economic recovery. Experts and leaders should focus on addressing immediate health and economic needs. By helping local communities manage their wildlife sustainably, we can take a big step toward securing a healthy future for people and nature.

The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) identifies three areas where greater institutional capacity is urgently needed to counter illicit trade, including illicit wildlife trafficking. Its study "Governance Frameworks to Counter Illicit Trade" identifies three such areas including: 1) enhancing the effectiveness of penalties and sanctions, 2) improving the screening of the rising volume of small shipments for illicit products, and 3) eliminating criminal activities related to illicit trade that are carried out in free trade zones.

In addition, the OECD recommends that countries should develop a national strategy on countering the illegal wildlife trade, and budget sufficient resources to monitor the implementation of actions it calls for. Some key aspects of such strategy should include:

  • Strengthening of co-operation between law enforcement and wildlife conservations authorities, through the drafting of strategic objectives and joint-investigations.
  • Call for the conduct of anti-corruption investigations by police and anti-corruption authorities on the back of arrests for wildlife crimes to identify and prosecute related criminal networks.
  • Reinforce the engagement of financial intelligence units in follow-the-money investigations related to wildlife crime, both at national level and in co-operation with international partners.
  • Foster international co-ordination and operations with relevant counterparts.

Posted by: 0197409035 Natsibulina Valeriia for the final project of the course Global Governance and International Organizations