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International crime: Evolutions in wildlife trafficking

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  1. ISS 814 International Crime.
  2. Evolutions in wildlife trafficking.
  3. Characteristics of the trade.
  4. Scope of the wildlife traffic and response to market evolutions.
  5. Influence of organized crime in wildlife trafficking and degree of internationalisation.
  6. Links between wildlife and drugs traffics: Diversification of the illegal activities.
  7. Case study.
    1. The illegal caviar trade, a highly organized traffic.
    2. Illegal abalone, a transnational trade.
  8. Conclusion.
  9. Bibliography.

Environmental crimes are by their very nature a transnational issue. The threat of species extinction for instance is not confined to a single country. However, the protection of the environment often comes against the global development process or increased standards of living worldwide (Michalowski & Bitten 2005, p.156-157). Environmental crimes are often considered less serious offences than other types of transnational crimes, particularly drug, arms or human trafficking. Elliott (2007) argues that transnational environmental crimes are ?undersecuritized?, meaning that they are not considered as serious security threat by law-enforcing agencies. Michalowski & Bitten (2005, p.136-159) highlights the ambiguity in the nature of the crimes as only a small portion is subjected to legal control and as environmental issues are embedded in a complex web of social, economical and political interests (2005, p.149).

[...] Excluding poaching practices conducted for personal consumption or use, most wildlife traffics involve chain, from capture or harvest of wildlife, to transporting, and on to marketing to consumers in final destination.? (Cook et al p17). A trade like abalone may also involve intermediaries that process the product, usually in the country of origins (see Tailby & Grant 2002 for a study of the Australian case). Wildlife trafficking needs to be defined according to the traded commodities, as many differences exist according to the sectors. [...]

[...] The main legal instrument in the fight against wildlife trafficking is the 1975 Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora, or CITES. This agreement acknowledges the transnational nature of this illegal trade, and provides a legal framework for the protection of wildlife and plants. However, the implementation of those regulations is made at the national level, and it can be argued that this legal framework is quite weak, even ?incoherent? (Elliott 2007, p.515). This weakness is obvious at the national level, where wildlife smugglers face low risks of detention. [...]

[...] Indeed, recent evolutions of wildlife trafficking have essentially revolved around the social and economical changes in Asia, especially Southeast and East Asia and in particular China. Like most illegal traffics, the wildlife trade follows the market trends. If a particular species is difficult to obtain or rare, then its value will increase on the market, making it more attractive to criminals looking for profits. Moreover, if the demand for a particular species rises, then its value will increase and the suppliers might be tempted in return to increase the volume of their traffic to meet with the market pressure. [...]

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