Illegal wildlife trade & the EU | WWF

Illegal wildlife trade & the EU

The EU will need to address poor coordination and lack of resources dedicated to tackling wildlife crime.
The EU is a market, place of transit  and source region for wildlife trafficking. For example, it is a market for tortoises, a transit region for ivory, source of European eels – all of which are illegal to trade.

All EU Member States and the European Union as a whole have signed up to the international treaty regulating global wildlife trade, the ‘Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of wild fauna and flora’ (CITES). In the EU, CITES is implemented through a set of EU Wildlife Trade Regulations.  

In February 2016 the European Commission adopted a robust and comprehensive EU Action Plan against wildlife trafficking. It aims to tackle wildlife trafficking more effectively by 2020 in the EU and globally by:
  • preventing and addressing the root causes of wildlife trafficking such as reducing the demand for illegal wildlife products;
  • enforcing existing EU rules; and
  • strengthening international cooperation against wildlife trafficking.

EU Member States have endorsed this Action Plan by adopting Council Conclusions in June 2016.

Existing EU laws aren’t properly implemented in all Member States, therefore the EU will have to address poor coordination and lack of resources dedicated to tackling wildlife crime across all Member States.

What is WWF doing?


WWF advocates for more action and resources in order to stop wildlife trafficking  and address its root causes. WWF will continue to monitor the EU’s performance to ensure that the EU:
  • delivers on the EU Action plan against wildlife trafficking and reports progress;
  • raises political will and financial resources; and
  • harmonises sanctions across the EU and classifies wildlife trafficking as a serious crime, with maximum penalties of at least four years’ jail as called for under the UN Convention against Transnational Organized Crime.