Wildlife trafficking, organised crime linked: Nonprofit’s report sheds new
Himanshu Nitnaware, Down to Earth
October 31, 2023
New evidence on the convergence of wildlife crime in tandem with other
forms of organised crime has been found in a new report by nonprofit
Wildlife Justice Commission (WJC) working to dismantle organised crime.
The commission members have observed close links of wildlife trade with
protection rackets, extortion, murder, money laundering, illicit drugs, tax
evasion and corruption.
The report Convergence of wildlife crime with other forms of organised
crime: A 2023 Review, is a follow-up to the first report published in 2021,
which mentioned 12 case studies linking wildlife trafficking with human
trafficking, fraud, migrant smuggling, illicit drugs, corruption and money
However, it is the first time that it noted sand-mining as a form of
Sand, a raw material and second-most-used resource in the world, is used to
make concrete, asphalt and glass. About 40-50 billion tonnes of sand
resources are exploited each year, but their extraction is managed and
governed poorly in many countries, the report stated.
The sand is extracted from rivers, coastal or marine ecosystems and has
enormous environmental impacts — mining causes erosion and directly affects
communities and their livelihoods. Indiscriminate extraction negatively
impacts aquifers, reduces protection against storm surges, shrinks deltas,
freshwater and marine fisheries, land-use changes and biodiversity.
Despite the scale of the issue, no global treaties governing sand
extraction are in effect and the environmental damage is reportedly
perpetuated by illegal sand-mining operation, organised and operated by
violent sand mafias, the document stated.
The report further recognised 35 people in India, including five
journalists and activists and 13 government officials, who were killed by
sand mafia from January 2019 until March 2022 for opposing illegal sand
Sand-mining killings from Indonesia, Kenya, Gambia, South Africa and Mexico
were also reported. In addition to the 12 case studies from 2021, the
report puts on record three cases from Southeast Asia, Africa and Central
The first case study illustrated the diversion of commodities such as
pangolin scales, illegal sand mining, protection rackets and elephant ivory
in Southeast Asia and Africa. The second case from Africa involved an
embedded convergence between corruption, rhino poaching and money
The third study from Central America represented transactional convergence
between drug trafficking networks and seafood businesses involving sea
cucumber and sharks closely linked to smuggling of illicit drugs, money
laundering, tax evasion and corruption.
Wildlife crime is a cross-cutting criminal activity that cannot be tackled
in isolation from other crimes, Olivia Swaak-Goldman, executive director
for WJC, said in a press statement.
“Crime convergence should be further studied and integrated as part of the
approach to tackle wildlife crime and organised crime more broadly. An
improved understanding of this intersection can help identify more
strategic policy and law enforcement responses to address it,”
Wildlife trafficking has grown to become a “more serious and profitable
crime” in recent decades and increasing evidence of links between organised
crime networks and wildlife crime is observed where the crimes are
committed in conjunction with other forms of organised crime, the report
The paper aimed to highlight the convergence typologies and strategies to
inform and support law enforcement and policy makers to crack on the forms
of transnational organised crime.