A landmark new project aimed at improving understanding of the link between the illegal wildlife trade and organised crime launches today (13 March 2016).

The BIOSEC project, led by Professor Rosaleen Duffy in the Department of Politics, will examine claims by national governments and non-governmental organisations (NGOs) that wildlife poaching and trafficking are increasingly being used to fund organised crime and terrorist groups.

But the evidence for these claims is currently sparse and there is a need to develop a much better understanding of the relationships between them.

The three-year project, funded by a £1.8million European Research Council Advanced Investigator Grant, will look into what constitutes an environmental crime, the responses by the European Union to the illegal wildlife trade, and how new technology is being used to tackle poaching and trafficking.

Professor Rosaleen Duffy, Professor of International Politics, said: ‘Wildlife poaching and trafficking has hit the headlines in recent years and there is an urgent need to address biodiversity losses as a result of the illegal wildlife trade. I am really excited to lead the BIOSEC project, which seeks to develop a much better understanding of this growing global challenge.”

“Rhinos, tigers, elephants and pangolins get the most attention, but many other wildlife products are traded illegally, including caviar, python skins for shoes and handbags, or geckos and frogs for ornamental displays.

“New sources of demand can erupt very suddenly, as with the rapid increase in demand for rhino horn from Vietnam. It is important to remember that Europe and the US remain major markets for the illegal wildlife trade too.”

“Wealthy communities around the world are accustomed to consuming wildlife as food, medicine, clothing, and ornaments – and the demand places heavy pressures on wildlife and people to supply those markets.”

The project aims to generate new data on the illegal wildlife trade to demonstrate the ways that biodiversity protection and security are linked, as well as providing new approaches to understanding the links between the two.

With policy-makers urgently needing more information in order to design more effective and socially just responses, the BIOSEC project team will also produce policy relevant information to assist and support in practical actions to protect wildlife across the globe.

www.biosecproject.org

Twitter: @biosec_erc