Civil Society Offers New Tool to Fight Wildlife Trafficking
David Klein, Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project
September 27, 2022
Taking a page out of the financial crime enforcements handbook, researchers
at the Global Initiative Against Transnational Organized Crime have now
started using a new tool to fight wildlife trafficking.
“For several decades, crime typology reports have been successfully applied
in the financial industry to assist bank analysts and law enforcement
agencies with recognizing incidences of money laundering and terror
financing,” said GI-TOC.
Crime typology, refers to a way of categorizing wrongdoing by studying the
techniques and methods of criminal activity in an effort to speed up
detection of illicit schemes.
“The success of these reports in the fight against financial crimes has led
us to believe that they have the potential for a broader application,
specifically in the realm of the online illegal wildlife trade where they
could be specifically adapted to assist in the development of better means
of detection and more effective interventions,” the independent
civil-society organization said.
Since the advent of the internet, wildlife trafficking has become an
increasingly online trade, where enforcement is difficult. When a trader is
banned from one platform, he may just as quickly pop up again on a
different one, or even the same under a different name.
Typological methods allow enforcement officers to categorize the language
and methods used by traffickers to begin to identify when a post is that of
an already banned user now operating under a different name, or if a
seemingly legitimate post is using code and dog whistles to bely a more
“The fact that illegal wildlife traders have begun utilizing surface web
platforms to sell their products is evidence of the poor detection and
enforcement capacities of law enforcement agencies, and the insufficient
internal controls of the private companies that run the platforms,” said
“Because the online illegal wildlife trade is a low political priority and
the terms of service of some social media platforms hamper police
investigations, criminals are online but the police are not. Wildlife crime
therefore offers high rewards with little risk,” it explained.
Typologies could improve responses to the online illegal wildlife trade and
establish a regular communication between experts and tech companies which
will need help understanding the evasion techniques used by illegal
traders. These include using emojis, hashtags and text within images to
evade automated word searches.
“Since it is unlikely that a single tech firm or law enforcement agency
could maintain comprehensive knowledge of the planet’s wide range of flora
and fauna and their associated illicit trade dynamics without incurring
considerable cost, wildlife typology reports produced by a pool of experts
will allow tech platforms to combine their resources to efficiently track
methods, techniques, schemes and instruments used by online wildlife
offenders,” GI-TOC said.