Illicit Wildlife Trade

wildlife banner.jpg

The Covid-19 crisis has drawn increased attention to wildlife trade and to the work that many organizations do to prevent the Illicit Wildlife Trade (IWT).

The IWT and the smuggling of animal products are matters for customs and border control authorities and are addressed through the World Customs Organization’s (WCO) SAFE Framework of Standards. The role of WCO as lead agency with respect to maritime cargo security is recognized by both MSC and FAL Committees      (MSC-FAL.1/Circ.1).

FAL 40 noted that IWT has many parallels with illicit drug trade, an issue that was addressed by the Committee in the past through the adoption of resolutions MSC.228(82) and FAL.9(34) on Revised Guidelines for the prevention and suppression of the smuggling of drugs, psychotropic substances and precursor chemicals on ships engaged in international maritime traffic. The Committee, while recognizing that IMO is not the lead agency for the prevention and suppression of IWT or the smuggling of drugs, agreed that failure to take appropriate measures to prevent the carriage of such products on board ships might lead to seafarers or ships being delayed, including for legal proceedings.

Moreover, the IMO involvement in IWT by ship is relevant both for the IMO strategic plan: SD 5: Enhance global facilitation and security of international trade; and for the IMO commitment to support the implementation of the 2030 agenda, especially SDGs 12 (Sustainable Consumption and Production), 14 (Life under Water) and 15 (Life on Land). 

In this context, the IMO is one of the 150 signatories of the United for Wildlife (UfW) Transport Taskforce Buckingham Declaration, which is a landmark agreement to take steps to remove the vulnerabilities in transportation and customs in order to prevent IWT. UfW was created by the Royal Foundation of The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and unites the world’s leading wildlife charities to prevent critically endangered species from being wiped out.

The IMO Secretariat participates in the UfW Transport Taskforce, which is a network of private, public and third sector partners working individually and co-operatively to reveal, disrupt and prevent illegal wildlife traffic.  In 2018, a Financial Taskforce was also created to address the role of financial institutions in the fight against illegal wildlife trade.


CITES (the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora) is an international agreement between governments which aims to ensure that international trade in specimens of wild animals and plants does not threaten their survival.

United for Wildlife:  

Special Analysis: How will COVID-19 impact global wildlife trafficking?