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Illegal wildlife trade and other organised crime: A scoping review

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The global illegal wildlife trade has been anecdotally linked to other serious crimes, such as fraud, corruption, and money laundering, as well as the cross-border trafficking of drugs, arms, counterfeit goods, and persons. As research on this topic is scarce and sporadic, we conducted a scoping literature review to gather information across multiple disciplines and evidence types on crime convergences in the illegal wildlife trade. We reviewed 150 papers published between 2000 and 2020. We found that the illegal trade in many of the most frequently trafficked species have reportedly converged with numerous other serious and organised crimes, most commonly drug trafficking. Convergences can occur in a variety of ways, although the diversification of organised crime groups, parallel trafficking of contraband, and use of enabling crimes (such as corruption and violence) were the most frequently described. Possible explanations for our results and future research directions are discussed.

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Data availability

The data supporting the findings of this study are available within the paper and the Supporting Information files. The Python codes for data analysis/ visualization are available in GitHub: Interest in any additional data derived from the literature review can be directed to the corresponding author and made available upon reasonable request.

Change history

  • 15 December 2021

    Figure 3 was updated


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This study was supported by funding from the Ontario Graduate Scholarship and the University of Waterloo.

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Correspondence to Michelle Anagnostou.

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Anagnostou, M., Doberstein, B. Illegal wildlife trade and other organised crime: A scoping review. Ambio 51, 1615–1631 (2022).

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  • Conservation
  • Corruption
  • Crime convergence
  • Environmental crime
  • Organised crime
  • Wildlife trafficking