It is impossible to identify clear pan-continental, let alone global, trends on how COVID-19 has impacted wildlife crime to date. Available research has highlighted that challenges across countries and regions differ and are highly context-specific. Some evidence suggests that wildlife trafficking has slowed due to a reduction in demand, a drop in prices, transport restrictions and the closure of borders. Seizures of wildlife products have dropped sharply compared to 2019. However, there are clear indications that the trade has not disappeared and experts are expecting a return to pre-pandemic levels once travel restrictions are lifted.
To face pandemic-related challenges, it is likely that organized criminal groups changed their modus operandi to manage changes in transportation patterns, including a further shift to the internet. Organized criminal groups appear to exploit the fact that government officials and law enforcement authorities are occupied with efforts to combat the pandemic. Corruption thrives in times of crisis, which adds another layer of threat. In addition, criminal justice systems globally have experienced the direct impacts of the pandemic
Annual Report is full of examples of collective work undertaken by UNODC Member States and its team around the world. Even in midst of a terrible global crisis, efforts to dissuade and reduce the poaching and trafficking of wild fauna and flora have continued.
“Although we have been able to adapt to this dynamic environment, particularly in the way in which we deliver sensitive capacity building to already-cautious law enforcement and criminal justice system actors, I would be doing a big disservice if I were not to confess that our ability to provide the highest quality of criminal justice training was not impacted. Some things in the law enforcement field are best conveyed, debated and implemented through in-person exchange. Against the backdrop of restrictions on travel and meetings, we have made use of the emerging virtual platforms to deliver technical assistance to our beneficiaries and extended our networks to provide support wherever and however possible.” said, Jorge Eduardo Rios, Chief, UNODC Global Programme for Combating Wildlife and Forest Crime.
“In 2020, we have come much closer to understanding just how little it takes for nature to tilt, and the repercussions this has on all of us. COVID-19 is anything but a coincidence. As long as we continue to allow criminals to illegally exploit our biodiversity, degrade our ecosystems all of which lead to altering our climate, this may be but a harbinger of things to come.”
“UNODC is committed to working with Member States and relevant partners to do its part to ensure that criminal justice considerations are included in many of the evolving discussions around nature. I am extremely proud of our team, our counterparts, and those that make our work possible under trying circumstances. This Report is evidence that we can, despite difficult operating conditions, collectively make a difference to end crimes that impact on our environment.” Jorge Eduardo Rios added.