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Using policy and public outreach to tackle green crimes

Wildlife trafficking is one of the leading threats to the survival of species globally, and it hurts the livelihood of people who are reliant on wildlife for sustenance, income and shelter. Green criminologists like Dr Tanya Wyatt, Associate Professor in Criminology and Co-lead of the Environmental and Global Justice theme at Northumbria University, are researching crimes against the environment and non-human species – such as corruption and wildlife trafficking – and what can be done to prevent them.

The World Economic Forum estimates that wildlife crime is a $23 billion globally destructive trade, making it the fourth most lucrative global crime after drugs, humans and arms. As a green criminologist with a penchant for having impact, Dr Wyatt wants to put an end to the pain and suffering wildlife trafficking causes.

In 2015, Dr Wyatt teamed up with Dr Anh Ngoc Cao and the U4 Anti-Corruption Resource Centre to explore what donor agencies – such as International Fund for Animal Welfare, which finances a number of conservation and environmental programmes where corruption is a concern – could do to combat wildlife trafficking. As a result, Dr Wyatt created a set of recommendations bilateral donors agencies are using to reduce wildlife trafficking and protect biodiversity.

Dr Wyatt also used her research to help write a resolution on corruption reduction for the 2016 Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) Conference of the Parties. All 183 of CITES’ member countries adopted the resolution, agreeing to implement measures to criminalise corruption in their national legislations. Soon, she will be exploring CITES’ implementation and compliance practices as part of an AHRC Leadership Fellowship.

Pushing the impact of her corruption and wildlife trafficking research farther, in 2017, Dr Wyatt completed a mapping exercise explaining how and where corruption features along the trade chain of three Asian wildlife black markets – the illegal trading of ivory, reptile skins and live reptiles. Dr Wyatt identified the main stages wildlife are subjected to from their capture/death through to being sold: planning, poaching/breeding, distribution, transportation, processing, selling and laundering. Using Dr Wyatt’s framework, law enforcement agencies can be more efficient with how they deploy resources, focusing on the part of the stages where they have the most power.

Dr Wyatt will also continue to collaborate with policy makers to reduce wildlife trafficking. Already, she has been a key voice in a 2016 presentation to the Environment Committee of the EU Parliament, which helped convince the Committee to adopt the EU Action Plan against Wildlife Trafficking. She has also presented the case for why biodiversity loss is a security threat to the US National Intelligence Council (NIC) and wrote a classified report containing many recommendations the NIC are currently implementing.

Public engagement activities will also play a key role in Dr Wyatt’s efforts to expand the impact of her green criminology research. For example, she was the Principal Investigator on the Green Criminology Research Seminar Series, which increased knowledge around and funding towards tackling environmental crimes. In fact, the third seminar informed the Law Commission's ongoing review of wildlife legislation, and a presentation from a seminar about uncovering illegal ivory on the Internet was turned into a concept note for the Wildlife Crime Technology Challenge. It is currently funding technology to prevent wildlife trafficking.

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