Wildlife crime: describing the phenomenon

There are various definitions of “wildlife crime”. For example, United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) defines it as "harvesting and trade contrary to national [and international] laws”. Wildlife crimes can be categorized differently, for instance, based on the motivations of the crime, the species targeted, and the methods used. National regulations may use a combination of these categorizations when describing these offences. This overview page provides a non-exhaustive list of wildlife crimes and some of the wildlife crime categorizations in use, which follow the scope of the SWiPE project. Due to this, there are some overlaps between the phenomena described by these categories.

Non-selective catching and killing

Every year millions of animals are illegally shot, trapped or poisoned in Europe threatening wildlife populations. Among non-selective means that are prohibited by international conventions, particularly the Bern Convention and the Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species and Wild Animals (Bonn Convention) and by EU Habitats and Birds Directives, the use of poisoned bait is the most widely used method to kill predators worldwide, mainly associated with hunting management and livestock. In this intentional poisoning, the offender usually intends to kill a series of animals considered harmful to livestock or game species, but it can affect other species that were not intended to be killed (especially animals feeding on carrion). The illegal use of poison baits has a serious impact on biodiversity, but also on human health.

© Wild Wonders of Europe / Markus Varesvuo / WWF

Unselective nets are fishing tools that are catching non-target organisms creating issues for oceans or river conservation and resources management. One of the most urgent threats to the world’s remaining fish stocks is especially the indiscriminate capture of such non-target organisms (for example turtles, marine mammals, juvenile fish), typically referred to as “bycatch”. Illegal nets could be unselective, but also too selective, like carmaci in the case of sturgeon fishing.

© naturepl.com / Jordi Chias / WWF