Illegal wildlife trade

The Royal Society presents scientific and technological interventions to tackle the damaging illegal wildlife trade for different scales, environments, and species.

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The illegal wildlife trade is an urgent global issue that is increasingly threatening and damaging natural capital, cultural heritage, livelihoods and sustainable economic development. Fuelled by criminality and corruption, the trade is worth up to $23 billion a year and affects some of the world’s iconic species.

Science and technology can offer major opportunities to tackle the illegal wildlife trade. This Royal Society technology update brings together expertise from a range of topic areas to identify five possible scientific and technological interventions that have a reasonable chance of implementation and impact. 

These interventions aim to showcase the range of opportunities that exist across different scales, scientific disciplines, environments and species:

  1. Risk profiling through interrogation of shipping documentation
  2. Smart shipping container technologies
  3. Optical recognition approaches
  4. Development of biological and chemical identification capability for use in the field
  5. Environmental isotope analysis

This update also identifies four cross-cutting themes that could help make the interventions identified more successful:

  • Accessible, affordable innovation and fit-for-purpose products
  • Wildlife crime as a technological test bed
  • Digital infrastructure and global technology platforms
  • Open data and databases

Greater detail on these propositions and how they could help tackle the illegal wildlife trade are presented in the update.