The Illegal Wildlife Trade Crisis

Wildlife brings significant ecological, cultural, and economic benefits to countries and regions across the world. In many developing countries, it is an engine for tourism, job creation, and sustainable development. In Kenya and Tanzania, for example, wildlife-based tourism represents 12% of gross domestic product,11 nd it makes up even larger shares of the economy in Madagascar (13.1%)2 and Namibia (14.9%).3 Wildlife populations for some of the most iconic species are currently under threat due to illegal wildlife trade (IWT). The global value of illegal environmental trade is estimated to be between US $48–216 billion/year, which is equivalent to 15% of the value of illegal trade of drugs (World Bank 2019, under preparation). The financial (tax revenue) losses are estimated between US$ 7 to 12 billion. The ecosystem services (economic) losses are much larger and estimated between US$ 881 to 1,825 billion (net present value). This makes IRNRT economically more significant than human trafficking and closer to drug trafficking impacts.. Together with illegal fish and timber utilization, this industry is the fourth largest global illegal trade—after narcotics, humans, and counterfeit products. In addition, factors such as competition over water and grazing lands, pressure of growing populations and urban areas, the proliferation of illegal small arms, and instability in some regions threaten the survival of healthy populations of critically endangered species and create an environment conducive to poaching, illegal trade, insecurity, and corruption, which in turn stifles economic development.

The latest African Elephant Specialist Group (AfESG) African Elephant Status Report (AESR 2016) estimated 415,428 elephants at the time of the last survey for each area, the first AESR in 25 years reporting a continental decline in elephant numbers. The AESR documented a reduction of approximately 118,000 in estimates for populations where comparable surveys were carried out in the AESR 2007. Elephant poaching was a major concern for several key range states and protected areas. For example, the Tanzanian government statistics show a 60% decline in elephant numbers between 2009 and 2014, attributed to poaching for ivory (Milner-Gulland et al. 2018)4. Despite a positive trend in reduction in the rate of rhino poaching in South Africa (769 in 2018 compared to 1,215 in 2014), it is still an alarming rate compared to the 13 rhinos poached in South Africa in 2007. The western black rhino was officially declared extinct due to poaching in 2011. One million pangolins were poached in the last decade, with 20 tons of pangolins and their parts being trafficked internationally every year 5. China’s pangolin population has declined by an estimated 94% since the 1960s due to trade for consumption6. An expansive and dynamic trading network is required to efficiently transport wildlife and wildlife products without detection. Over 200 tons of ivory have been seized worldwide since 2010. This is equivalent to tusks from over 30,000 poached elephants. In 2006, only a few tons of pangolin scales were seized in China. By 2016, seizures amounted to over 15,000 tons. In source countries, the active involvement of local rebel militias and criminal mafias is also undermining security, as well as robbing families of their breadwinners as park rangers are being murdered (over 1,000 killed in 35 countries in the last decade alone). The increasing scale of wildlife trafficking is intrinsically linked to the growing involvement of transnational organized crime networks operating in transit and consuming countries.7 Poaching and illegal logging are also a major threat to populations of other fauna and flora species, including big cats, pangolins, gorillas, and timber such as ebony and rosewood. Due to the cross-border and multi-dimensional nature of IWT, the development community must partner with stakeholders from multiple sectors and countries to reduce poaching, trafficking, and the demand for wildlife and wildlife products.

In recent years, there has been growing political momentum in the international donor community to combat IWT and ensure the survival of not only iconic species but also other species that are essential for the livelihoods of many communities globally. Numerous international financial institutions, governments, nongovernment organizations (NGOs), and foundations have launched strategies, programs, and projects to address IWT.

This report on the Analysis of International Funding to Tackle Illegal Wildlife Trade is part of an effort initiated at the 16th Meeting of the CITES Conference of the Parties (COP) in Bangkok in March 2013. At COP16, CITES Decision 16.5 was adopted to organize a Wildlife Donor Roundtable to share information on existing funding programs on wildlife, understand the long-term financial needs of developing countries to implement the Convention, and explore the potential for scaled-up financial resources to ensure the conservation and sustainable use of wildlife and to tackle wildlife crime. Subsequently, on 7 July 2015, a Donor Roundtable on Wildlife and Forest Crime was hosted by the United Nations Development Programme and the CITES Secretariat in New York on the sidelines of the High-Level Political Forum. At this meeting, the World Bank Group (WBG) agreed to take the lead on an analysis of funding to combat IWT in support of donor coordination. The donors that participated in this meeting were requested to provide input for this analysis. In addition, these donors were asked to help identify other significant organizations that invest in projects or programs that combat IWT.

Portfolio Review Objectives

Information on funding trends to combat IWT is not readily available, as the donor procedures, processes, and systems to collect and report on funding data are often complex and time-consuming, and they involve many agencies. In addition, donors often have different IWT definitions, lack a common taxonomy to identify the types of investments that fall within this type of donor support, and are unable to capture and report these data in an automated manner. Therefore, donors do not have up-to-date information on the depth and breadth of activities supported by other donors. This lack of accessible information can lead to inefficiencies in donor strategic planning and allocation of funds. This portfolio review was designed to address for the first time these challenges by collecting and analyzing IWT funding information across key international donors. It is intended to facilitate collaboration among donors and to maximize impacts of project and program activities.

The goal of this portfolio review is to assess the current state of international donor funding to combat illegal wildlife trade and to identify trends in investment in this sector in Africa and Asia since 2010.

Specifically, the portfolio review aims to answer the following questions:

  • How much funding was committed to combat IWT in Africa and Asia from 2010 to 2018?
  • How has funding changed over time?
  • Who are the major international donors investing in combating IWT?
  • Which countries/regions and organization types are the largest recipients of these funds?
  • How much funding was committed to different IWT interventions that include policy and legislation, law enforcement, protected area (PA) management, alternative livelihoods, and research and assessment?

In addition to the above questions, the case studies developed in 2018 were created to better understand “how” international donor-funded projects were implemented and to derive general lessons from these experiences.