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Wildlife Trafficking, Non-Human Welfare and their Intersection with Corruption and (Transnational) Organised Crime

JUEST Network Research Statement

Professor Tanya Wyatt, Co-Director of the Environmental and Global Justice theme, Northumbria University

This research statement outlines my cross-disciplinary research activity in the areas of environmental crime, wildlife trafficking, and non-human animal welfare and their intersection with corruption and (transnational) organised crime. Cross-border smuggling of waste, wildlife, and puppies can pose threats to public and environmental health whilst facilitated by corruption and profiting organised crime groups. My research aims to contribute to a post-Brexit EU–UK security and criminal justice treaty that addresses these crucial, yet often overlooked crimes and security concerns.

Knowledge and Research

My research in the field of environmental crime has generated information regarding the nature and extent of pollution and waste, and the criminal justice response, particularly in the EU context (Wyatt 2015; Hall and Wyatt 2017). Colleagues and I have also completed a study of the illegal puppy trade and farming for the Scottish Government and DEFRA (Wyatt et al 2017). Unmonitored or undetected movement of domestic animals, like puppies, by criminals is a profitable business that poses numerous health risks to people and animals. It also causes suffering to the puppies being smuggled and dogs being bred irresponsibly in unhygienic conditions. My main area of research though has been on wildlife trafficking (Wyatt 2013). I have supported the UK and EU governments in tackling this crime by providing data on the structures and scale of wildlife black markets (panellist at a POST briefing on preventing environmental crime; speaker at the EU Parliament Environment Committee’s session on Global Challenges of Wildlife Trafficking; Wyatt 2016). I have also consulted to the U4 - the Anti-Corruption Resource Centre (Wyatt and Cao 2015), the University of Maryland’s National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and the Responses to Terrorism (START) (Wyatt et al 2014), and the United States’ National Intelligence Council on various aspects of the security threat that wildlife trafficking poses (Wyatt 2017). My current Arts and Humanities Research Council funded project is investigating the implementation of and compliance with the Convention on the International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) of each of the 183 member states, looking for best practice and lessons learned.

As a former law enforcement officer, I have some insight into the challenges faced by agencies in the criminal justice system when it comes to tackling crime. This knowledge and experience helps me to work closely with law enforcement to develop practical approaches, particularly when it comes to data and information sharing, and working with limited resources. I also have previously volunteered with international non-governmental organisations (i.e. TRAFFIC and Wildlife Alliance), and conducted research at INTERPOL, so have an extensive global network cutting across criminal justice agencies, intra-governmental organisations, the third sector, and academia. My network enables me to tap into the wealth of expertise that exists internationally on environmental crimes.  

Application of Knowledge and Research to the Development and Implementation of the Proposed EU-UK Security and Criminal Justice Treaty

The UN General Assembly and the UN Office on Drugs and Crime recognise that environmental crime, particularly environmental black markets like wildlife, fish, and timber trafficking, and waste dumping are global concerns. Environmental crimes pose threats to the environment and people in terms of health and wellbeing, but also pose threats to national security because of the connection to corruption and organised crime, which challenge the rule of law. The UK Government (by leading the European Network for Prosecutors’ for the Environment and running the Illegal Wildlife Trade Challenge Fund) and the Royal Family (by establishing United for Wildlife, which has led the Transport and Financial Action Taskforces in relation to wildlife trafficking) also acknowledge the seriousness of environmental crime and have committed to combatting it. In order to support these national and international initiatives, it is crucial for the proposed EU-UK security and criminal justice treaty to be properly developed and implemented. To do this, it is necessary to further our understanding and consideration of the nature and extent of environmental crimes, particularly the environmental black markets like wildlife, waste, and domestic animals.

Specific issues of interest and relevance include (amongst others):

  • the changing regime in the UK for the implementation of and compliance with environmental conventions, like CITES, the Convention on Biological on Diversity, and the Montreal Protocol amongst others, and the interface with environmental crimes
  • the likely restructuring of border checks and customs inspections in relation to environmental commodities such as waste, wildlife, timber, and domestic animals
  • the ability of the UK to gather, hold, and share information with a view to the prevention of identified cross-border threats to national security, such as environmental black markets and transnational organised crime groups’ involvement
  • the ability to undertake effective international criminal investigations with a view to the prevention of such threats posed by environmental crime
  • the importance of linking Financial Intelligence Units, the proceeds of crime, anti-money laundering efforts, and unexplained wealth orders to perpetration of environmental crimes


Wyatt, T., Maher, J. and Biddle, P. 2017. Scoping Research on the Illegal Importation and Farming of Puppies. Scottish Government and Department of Environment, Food, and Rural Affairs.

Wyatt, T. 2017. ‘Illegal Logging as a Threat to US Interests’. US National Intelligence Council, Washington DC. Classified.

Hall, M. and Wyatt, T. 2017. Capitalisation and Gap Analysis of Environmental Crime in the European Union.  European Network for Prosecutors for the Environment.

Wyatt, T. 2016. ‘Wildlife crime and international security: strengthening law enforcement’. https://www.wiltonpark.org.uk/event/wp1423/. United Kingdom Foreign and Commonwealth Office, United States Department of State and the Organization for Economic and Cooperative Development.

Wyatt, T. (ed). 2015. Hazardous Waste and Pollution: detecting and preventing green crimes. New York: Springer. ISBN-13: 978-3319180809.

Wyatt, T. and Cao, A. 2015. ‘Corruption, Wildlife Trafficking and Development’. U4 Anti-corruption Research Centre.

Wyatt, T., Kushner, A. and Schwager, M. 2014. ‘Terrorism and Wildlife Trafficking’. National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and the Responses to Terrorism (START).

Wyatt, T. 2013. Wildlife Trafficking: A Deconstruction of the Crime, Victims and Offenders. Basingstoke, UK: Palgrave Macmillan. ISBN-13: 978-1137269232.