"Wildlife and forest" refers to all fauna and flora, including animals, birds and fish, as well as timber and non-timber forest products. "Wildlife and forest crime" refers to the taking, trading (supplying, selling or trafficking), importing, exporting, processing, possessing, obtaining and consumption of wild fauna and flora, including timber and other forest products, in contravention of national or international law. Broadly speaking, wildlife and forest crime is the illegal exploitation of the world's wild flora and fauna.
Once an emerging threat, wildlife and forest crime today has transformed into one of the largest transnational organized criminal activities alongside drug trafficking, arms, and trafficking in human beings. Criminal groups are using the same routes and techniques for wildlife trafficking as for smuggling of other illicit commodities, exploiting gaps in national law enforcement and criminal justice systems.
The billions of dollars generated by this illegal business are being used to further nefarious ends. In some cases money goes to financing terrorism and contributing to instability. These crimes are also closely interlinked with money-laundering, corruption, murder and extreme violence.
Wildlife and forest transnational organized crime is particularly acute in developing countries as under-resourced Governments often lack the capacity to regulate the exploitation of their natural assets. Rather than promoting economic progress, poorly managed natural wealth can lead to bad governance, corruption or even violent conflict.
Wildlife and forest crime threatens biodiversity and endangered species, the livelihood of people, and severely impacts national security, social and economic development.