What is the EU Action Plan against Wildlife Trafficking?


The world has witnessed a surge in wildlife crime in recent years. The scale of wildlife trafficking poses a threat to the survival of some of nature’s most emblematic species. Just one example in this regard: The illicit ivory trade has more than doubled since 2007, and is over three times greater than it was in 1998. Between 2007 and 2013, rhino poaching increased by 7000% in South Africa.

Wildlife trafficking has become a billion-euro criminal industry dominated by organised criminal groups. It has a devastating impact on biodiversity and very damaging effects on sustainable development and poverty eradication.

Europe too is directly concerned and affected. Endangered reptiles are offered for sale in the European Union, protected timber and ivory have been sneaked through our harbours, and highly endangered glass eels from Europe are ending up for sale in Asia.

Wildlife trafficking is very attractive to criminals, as it is highly lucrative and, in most countries, a low enforcement priority by comparison with other forms of trafficking, so the risk of detection and penalties is very limited.

The EU has an important role to play in tackling this traffic, as Europe is currently a destination market and a hub for trafficking in transit to other regions.

To halt the devastating impact of wildlife crime on ecosystems and the economy, the European Union has adopted the EU Wildlife Action Plan against Wildlife Trafficking, endorsed by the EU Member States through Conclusions adopted by Council of the European Union in June 2016, and by the European Parliament through a Resolution adopted in November 2016. It covers the five years from 2016 to 2020.

The Action Plan invites the Commission, the High Representative, the Member States, Europol and Eurojust to take part to the realization of its objectives.

The Action Plan is a far-reaching plan to address wildlife trafficking within the EU and strengthen the EU’s role in the fight against these illegal activities globally. It represents also a contribution towards the Sustainable Development Goals set under the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and in particular to SDG 15, which calls for urgent action to end poaching and trafficking of protected species of flora and fauna and address both demand and supply of illegal wildlife products.

The WAP comprises 32 measures to be taken by EU institutions and/or Member States.

These measures are divided over three priority areas:

  1. preventing wildlife trafficking and addressing its root causes,
  2. implementing and enforcing existing rules and combating organised wildlife crime more effectively, and
  3. strengthening the global partnership of source, consumer and transit countries against wildlife trafficking.

Priority 1: Efforts will be made to reduce the demand for and the supply of illegal wildlife products, by using the available multilateral (CITES) and EU-specific tools, supporting specific campaigns and further limiting ivory trade within and from the EU. One important way to tackle the root causes of wildlife trafficking is to ensure that rural communities in source countries are more engaged in wildlife conservation, and that they benefit more from it. ). Finally, multilateral and bilateral measures will be taken to tackle corruption, a crucial enabling factor for wildlife trafficking throughout the enforcement chain.

Priority 2: Although the existence of international and EU rules, it is necessary a review of shortcomings in implementation to be conducted for all Member States, and strategies for tackling them to be developed, in order to ensure that existing rules are enforced more consistently across the EU. Europol and and Eurojust will provide dedicated support for cross-border cases. International cooperation on enforcement is to be improved through participation in international law enforcement operations, technical assistance and targeted financial support. It is also requested to all Member States to implement the international commitments they have made, to ensure that their laws on organised crime cover wildlife trafficking and that appropriate penalties can be imposed for trafficking.

Priority 3: Various measures will be taken to step up funding to support developing countries in their efforts to combat wildlife trafficking. Better tools must be developed to tackle the links between wildlife trafficking and security that exist in some regions.

The EU Wildlife Trade Enforcement Group set up under Regulation (EC) 338/97 and consisting of representatives of EU Member States’ enforcement authorities is to review progress twice a year. The Commission will report to the Council and the European Parliament by July 2018 on progress in implementing the Action Plan, and on whether its priorities and objectives are appropriate and relevant. Progress made and the success of the Action Plan in curbing wildlife trafficking will be evaluated in 2020.


EU Action Plan against Wildlife Trafficking One year after – Overview of actions and initiatives taken by the EU Member states and the European Commission