Research Article

Trends in illegal wildlife trade across the EU between 2015 and 2020


Csaba Zsigmond1*

1University of Public Service, Faculty of Law Enforcement, Budapest, Hungary

*Correspondence: Zsigmond, Csaba, email:, Tel.: +36 (1) 432-9000



This paper deals with threats posed to biodiversity and human health by illegal trafficking of animals, plants, and related natural products. This activity contributes even to climate change. Altogether, these activities compromise environmental sustainability, therefore, urgent action is needed. For over one-decade, international communities, and organizations (UNODC, Interpol, Europol, and EU) have been warning on these wildlife crimes. We examine seizure data on illegal imports into and out of the European Union (EU) of illegal animal and plant species, protected by the international CITES Convention. Trends of these imports are evaluated over a five-year interval. This activity is global and poses serious threats, so its knowledge is of paramount importance to researchers, law enforcement agencies, and judicial authorities. In the meanwhile, the illegal smuggling offers undeserved benefits to criminals, and they may become a new form of organized crime. In our quantitative research, we collected data from the database. The database was searched for the 27 Member States of the EU, and the time interval from January 1, 2015 to October 10, 2020 was selected. We grouped and systematized obtained data by countries and based on individual seizures, we found the method of illegal shipment (by road, air, or sea). In addition, we identified the object of the smuggled goods (animal or plant species), the quantity, which was smuggled. We screened the source countries of exports to the EU and the destination countries of imports.After systematizing collected data, as described here, we established that for each species the same target and source country occur recurrently (over ten times), i.e., older and newer trends can be observed, and seized quantities are also significant. Our findings offer further research directions, analysis opportunities, and new challenges for law enforcement agencies. Based on our results, one can state that this topic deserves priority treatment, and that effective action can only be envisaged via cooperation between individual EU Member States, as well as EU States and third countries.

Keywords: environment crimes, illegal wildlife trafficking, smuggling, endangered species, Traffic, CITES, European Multidiscplinary Platform Against Criminal Treahts (EMPACT)


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Cite as: Zsigmond “Trends in illegal wildlife trade across the EU between 2015 and 2020” DRC Sustainable Future 2020, 1(2): 136-146, DOI: 10.37281/DRCSF/1.2.9


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