K4D Helpdesk report

The political economy of the illegal wildlife trade

Published on 4 July 2017

IWT has grown to become a massive global industry. Various organisations and reports estimate that the
trade is worth at least US$19 billion per year and rank IWT as the fourth largest global illegal activity
(IFAW 2013). The emerging picture of IWT is that organised criminal syndicates provide the trafficking
routes and methods to join together source countries with increasingly wealthy end-user markets,
primarily in Asia. As with other forms of transnational crime, those involved use corrupt officials and
politicians to evade enforcement and control mechanisms and to protect the illegal chains of custody.
This review is based on a rapid assessment of academic, donor and grey literature. A large part of recent
scholarship in this area has been produced by international non-governmental organisations (INGOs), or
else can be found in peer-reviewed academic journals. Authors do not appear to have engaged with the
gender implications of IWT in the context of PEA.

Cite this publication

Laws, E. (2017). The political economy of the illegal wildlife trade. K4D Helpdesk Report. Brighton, UK: Institute of Development Studies

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published by
Institute of Development Studies
Laws, Edward


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