Resources & Climate

Intelligence and Conservation: A Community-based Approach Can Help Address Wildlife Trafficking

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This post is part of the Natural Security Forum blog, which provides quick analysis from the Natural Security Forum team and outside contributors. For more information, visit the Natural Security Forum’s micro-site at 

Guest written by William D. Moreto, PhD, Assistant Professor of Criminal Justice, University of Central Florida

The plight of endangered species has received increased attention over the past decade, and with its rise, the world has grown more focused on the effects of wildlife crime. The growth in interest is due in part to evidence suggesting that the illegal wildlife trade is a form of transnational organized crime, and even in some cases, used to help support terrorist and rebel groups. This realization has led to the integration of intelligence-gathering policies into the conservation effort – spurring a debate on whether it is an effective tool. 

Intelligence-led frameworks have been promoted to investigate various types of environment-related crimes because of their ability to collect, collate, and analyze information to produce intelligence. These initiatives have been established in several countries. For example, INTERPOL has advanced intelligence enforcement training programs that focus on investigating wildlife crime throughout the world. Additionally, in 2014, the agency established a dedicated environmental crime team in its regional bureau in Nairobi, Kenya, which serves 13 countries in East Africa. The use of intelligence is a central strategy to identify key nefarious actors in the ongoing and future fights against wildlife crime. Questions remain, however, as to whether an intelligence approach will be sufficient to combat wildlife trafficking.

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