Illegal Wildlife Trade Conference

This year the UK was host to a high-level international conference to bring together global leaders to build partnerships and identify collaborative solutions to combat IWT.

ZSL, as a contributor, also held three supportive events for conference delegates in the lead up to the high-level event.

The illegal wildlife trade, worth up to £17 billion a year, has reached unprecedented levels. This insidious crime, the fourth most lucrative in the world, has far-reaching and devastating consequences. It not only threatens the future of the most heavily traded species, such as pangolins, certain species of sharks, and tigers, but also undermines good governance, facilitates corruption and criminal networks, and overwhelmingly impacts the poorest and more marginalised communities, often most reliant upon access to natural resources for their livelihoods. 

White-bellied pangolin (c) Tim Wacher, ZSL
White-bellied pangolin

ZSL is determined to detect, deter and disrupt wildlife trafficking in many of the countries most adversely affected by IWT. This is an increasing part of our global conservation work – ZSL’s conservation programmes are now active in over 50 countries worldwide. ZSL also plays an active role in the policy arena, supporting global efforts to combat IWT at CITES (the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora), including reducing the impact of trade on cheetahs and pangolins, and pushing for the closure of domestic ivory markets globally to reduce demand for ivory that is driving poaching of African elephants. We are also working with local communities to protect less well-known species threatened by IWT, such as marmots from Mongolia and eels from the Philippines.

ZSL Anti Poaching staff, Dja, Cameroon

The UK Government has invested nearly £20 million in 61 projects aimed at combatting wildlife trafficking around the world. These practical projects focus on developing sustainable livelihoods and economic development for those communities most adversely affected by IWT; strengthening law enforcement and legal frameworks that relate directly to IWT; and reducing the demand that drives the illegal trade in so many species. The generous support of the UK Government enables ZSL to work with partner countries to combat IWT, including Kenya, Cameroon, Benin, Niger, Mongolia, Nepal, India and the Philippines.

ZSL-Indonesia inspecting a seized Sumatran tiger skin
ZSL-Indonesia and Indonesian law enforcement staff checking a female Sumatran tiger skin, seized as evidence in a case that led to the capture of two suspects.

As well as providing financial support, the UK Government, along with ZSL and other partners, has worked tirelessly to raise the profile of IWT on the international agenda, engaging governments around the world to improve  international efforts to tackle wildlife trafficking. Part of the UK Government’s efforts include the seminal London Illegal Wildlife Trade Conference hosted in 2014. The ambitious declaration resulting from that event laid out 24 commitments aimed at tackling all aspects of the illegal wildlife trade chain: signed by 41 countries. Since then there have been two follow up conferences, in Kasane and Hanoi, and today the conference is coming back to the UK for the 4th Illegal Wildlife Trade Conference: London 2018.

An enormous Ivory Seizure made in Cameroon, 2016

ZSL is playing a key role helping with and participating at the conference itself, and will also be hosting, with partners, two IWT focused events at at London Zoo which will support and inform debate at the main event itself. These will enable conference attendees to share the latest research and evidence they have gathered from the fight against IWT, and provide a space for delegates from communities most affected by IWT to increase their voice in international IWT policy-making, by sharing their opinions of current efforts to combat IWT, and exchanging experiences.

ZSL is looking forward to seeing governments furthering their commitments to tackle IWT and helping them achieve these ambitious targets.

Find out more about the illegal wildlife trade

A spiral of shark fins drying in the sun

ZSL's involvement in tackling the illegal wildlife trade

In recent years the impact of IWT on species has reached unprecedented levels. Find out more about the impacts of...