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New EU initiative to counter surging wildlife cybercrime


14 Jun 2019


Global Europe

Brussels, Belgium, 14 June 2019—A new European Union (EU)-funded project aims to disrupt criminals trafficking wildlife in or via the EU using the internet, postal or fast parcel services. The project is implemented by a strong coalition gathering WWF, IFAW, INTERPOL, the Belgian Customs and TRAFFIC. The project is led by WWF Belgium, in affiliation with TRAFFIC.

Funded by the Internal Security Fund of the Directorate General for Migration and Home Affairs of the European Commission, the two-year “Disrupting and dismantling wildlife cybercriminals and their networks in the European Union” project will help train customs, police and other enforcement officers across the EU to detect and deter wildlife trafficking. The project will also engage with delivery and online technology companies, to ensure wildlife traffickers do not exploit their services.

The increasing volume of parcel deliveries, linked to the growth of e-commerce, represents a significant challenge for those enforcing the EU Wildlife Trade Regulations, who will benefit from the support provided through this project,” said Emilie Van der Henst, the WWF/TRAFFIC Project Coordinator.

The internet provides wildlife traffickers access to a vast international marketplace—one without borders that is open 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year, where wildlife cybercriminals exploit the anonymity afforded to them online. Detecting and disrupting wildlife cybercrime is a critical component to ensure the survival of endangered and threatened wild animals.

More than 8000 specimens in just 6 weeks

A 2018 International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) report, Disrupt: Wildlife Cybercrime, identified 3,312 advertisements spread across online marketplaces and social media platforms in France and Germany, cataloguing 8,244 endangered and threatened specimens—everything from ivory tusks and trinkets to rhino horn products, fur and skins from big cats, live birds and reptiles—worth almost EUR 2 million over a six week period.

“This project will enable IFAW to continue our pioneering approach into online wildlife crime in the EU, working with our partners to create a network of experts to defeat a criminal network,” said Tania McCrea-Steele, IFAW’s Global Wildlife Cybercrime Project Lead.

The wildlife cybercrime project will initially focus on Belgium, France, Germany and the Netherlands, identifying information on trends and developing tools, which will be of use to other EU Member States.

Alongside improved detection of wildlife trafficking, the project will work with online companies to remove accounts and advertisements of those offering wildlife illegally and make it harder for them to reach their customers online.

We aim to throw a big spanner in the operations of wildlife cybercriminals and make their activities a high-risk, low-profit form of criminality,” said Emilie van der Henst, the WWF/TRAFFIC Project Coordinator.

One of the largest illegal global trade

Illicit trade in wildlife, is estimated to be worth between 5 and 23 billion USD per year, making it one of the largest illegal global trade, after other transnational crimes such as drug trafficking and illegal logging, according to a 2017 Global Financial Integrity report.

In 2015, a United Nations (UN) resolution recognised the broader impacts of wildlife crime, which include corruption, money laundering, the undermining of good governance, the rule of law and the well-being of local communities and called upon nations to take appropriate action.

In 2016, the EU adopted the Action Plan against Wildlife Trafficking and Member States made environmental crime one of their 10 priorities in their efforts to address serious international and organised crime for the period 2018–2021.


The content of this press release represents the views of the authors only and is his/her sole responsibility. The European Commission does not accept any responsibility for use that may be made of the information it contains.

Note to Editors

In March 2018, WWF, TRAFFIC and IFAW launched The Coalition to End Wildlife Trafficking Online with 21 of the world’s leading e-commerce, technology and social media companies. In collaboration with wildlife experts from WWF, TRAFFIC and IFAW, each company will develop and implement policies and solutions to help end wildlife trafficking online.





The Coalition to End Wildlife Trafficking Online [LINK:]

Disrupt: Wildlife Cybercrime (2018) [LINK:]


Global Wildlife Cybercrime Action Plan, launched at 2018 London Illegal Wildlife Trade Conference [LINK:]

About WWF

WWF is one of the largest and most experienced independent conservation organizations in the world, active in more than 100 countries and with more than 5 million sympathizers worldwide. The mission of WWF is to leave the living generations after us a viable planet. WWF is committed to the conservation of species and their living environment: forests, wetlands and oceans. WWF also contributes to solutions for the pollution and waste of natural resources and climate change. More information on In Belgium, in the context of this project, WWF works in affiliation with TRAFFIC.


TRAFFIC is a leading non-governmental organisation working globally on trade in wild animals and plants in the context of both biodiversity conservation and sustainable development whose mission is to ensure that trade in wild plants and animals is not a threat to the conservation of nature. More information at


The International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) is a global non-profit helping animals and people thrive together. We are experts and everyday people, working across seas, oceans, and in more than 40 countries around the world. We rescue, rehabilitate, and release animals, and we restore and protect their natural habitats. The problems we’re up against are urgent and complicated. To solve them, we match fresh thinking with bold action. We partner with local communities, governments, non-governmental organizations, and businesses. Together, we pioneer new and innovative ways to help all species flourish. See how at


INTERPOL is the world’s largest international police organization. Our role is to assist law enforcement agencies in our 194 member countries to combat all forms of transnational crime. We work to help police across the world meet the growing challenges of crime in the 21st century by providing a high-tech infrastructure of technical and operational support. Our services include targeted training, expert investigative support, specialized databases and secure police communications channels.

Belgian customs

The Cybersquad of Belgian Customs was founded in 2013 to tackle the growing threat of Customs crimes on the Internet. The unit started working mainly on counterfeit products, but has now ventured into different areas of crime, including environmental crimes regulated by the CITES convention. We regularly coooperate with other cybercrime units of Customs authorities as part of the Customs @gainst Internet Crime working group as well as with international agencies like OLAF and Europol. The unit is composed of one Internet investigator and two forensic specialists.