Smuggling Wildlife in the Americas: Scale, Methods, and Links to Other Organised Crimes

Author data: 
Peter Reuter
Publication Date: 
May 2016
Global Crime
Document Type: 
Articles and Op-Eds
International wildlife trafficking has garnered increased attention in recent years with a focus on the illicit trade in ivory, rhinos, and other animals from Africa and Asia. Less is known about trafficking in the Americas. By conducting a systematic review of academic literature, popular accounts, and government reports, this case study attempts to identify the scope and methods of wildlife trafficking in the Americas and its connections to organised crime. Unlike arms or drug smuggling, individual operators with minimal connections to other criminal activities dominate the trade. Most perpetrators work independently and have expertise and interests in legitimate businesses involving animal products. Methods of concealment are frequently rudimentary and little appears to be known about primary trafficking routes. Overall, wildlife smuggling in the Western Hemisphere appears to be a small-scale activity, small in its aggregate amounts, and strongly linked to legitimate businesses operating in a low risk and technologically narrow environment.