Wildlife Trade Solutions


African Savanna Elephant, East Africa

Across the globe people rely on the harvest, collection, trade, and consumption of wild animals and plants. Managing the sourcing, trade, and consumption to sustainable levels is a highly complex and often emotive issue. Decisions that shape whether trade is sustainable, legal, fair, and transparent need to be based on sound science, as do actions to remedy challenges or negative elements, including restricting trade for species that are imperiled through overexploitation or trafficking. Determining the ability of wildlife populations to sustain harvest, how the rate of trade and consumption affects that and whether trade meets regulatory or sustainability requirements, needs data, analysis, and recommendations for action.

TRAFFIC is an organization that was established in 1976 by WWF and IUCN as a wildlife trade monitoring network to undertake data collection, analysis, and provision of recommendations to inform decision making on wildlife trade. For over 40 years TRAFFIC performed that function as a leader in wildlife trade research, as a joint program of WWF and IUCN. TRAFFIC became an independent non-profit organization in 2017, with WWF and IUCN sitting on its Board of Directors along with independent Board members. TRAFFIC is renowned globally for its expertise and influence in the wildlife trade and conservation arena, as a provider of objective and reliable information. Its expert staff implement innovative projects and create new tools to deliver the mission of protecting nature and supporting sustainable development, by resolving wildlife trade challenges.

How the US and Europe help fuel the illegal tiger trade

New findings show that weak legislation and regulations on captive tiger facilities across the European Union and the United Kingdom are helping to fuel the illegal tiger trade. And the US 

Tiger caged in captivitiy

Why It Matters

  • Illegal Wildlife Trade

    The illegal trade in wildlife and wildlife products such as elephant ivory, rhino horn, pangolin scales, shark fins, marine turtle shell, and rosewood is causing unprecedented declines in many species populations, with associated adverse effects on their ecosystems. Increasingly, the illegal wildlife trade is being dominated by organized criminal networks that are making enormous profits, often without fear of detection or penalty. TRAFFIC specializes in providing information analytics on illegal trade networks and supply chains, targeting the kingpins, illegal markets, and new trends in trafficking.

  • Legal Wildlife Trade

    Most wildlife trade is not illegal. Hundreds of thousands of species of wild plants and animals are caught or farmed globally and then sold legally as food, pets, ornamentation, fashion, leather, souvenirs or for use in traditional medicine. Wildlife trafficking and unsustainable practices, however, undermine legal, sustainable trade. TRAFFIC provides a scientific basis for understanding of the scale and sustainability of wildlife trade to allow policy makers, communities, and wildlife managers to make the right decisions.

  • Impacts on People

    Communities benefit in many ways from wildlife and the habitats that sustain them, including through revenues or barter from wildlife trade. Wildlife trade that is illegal and unsustainable heavily impacts the local communities that rely on them through loss of resources and incomes. Additionally, the COVID-19 pandemic has demonstrated the devastating impacts of zoonotic diseases on human health and economic stability, caused by trade in wildlife that carry novel viruses. These are highly complex challenges and TRAFFIC is at the forefront, developing the solutions, strategies, and partnerships for resilient communities.

  • How TRAFFIC Operates

    TRAFFIC’s team around the world carries out research, investigations, and analyses to catalyze action by governments, businesses, institutions and individuals. The global team works in the world’s most critical wildlife trade hotspots and along supply chains, revealing the latest trends in trade and sounding the alarm when urgent threats are detected.

    TRAFFIC operates in a regional structure of offices working cohesively across the globe. TRAFFIC’s largest programs are in Africa and Asia, where the greatest impact has been needed over the past decade, due to booming consumer demand and trafficking in wildlife. In the Americas, TRAFFIC is based in Washington DC as part of WWF-US under an associate agreement.

  • TRAFFIC in the Americas

    The Americas has hugely diverse wildlife trade dynamics, acting as both an important source of native wildlife, a global transit hub and massive consumer market. The US is one of the largest global consumer markets for wildlife, but it also has its own trade and management issues with its native species. With some of the most biodiverse nations, Latin American and the Caribbean countries rely on wild animals and plants for livelihoods, resources, and cultural uses.

    TRAFFIC implements projects in the Americas, primarily on analyzing and alerting to illegal wildlife trade threats. Tackling the risk of zoonotic disease caused by wildlife trade is a new priority. The central hub for TRAFFIC is based in the US to leverage influence and impact internationally through US investments. The TRAFFIC team in the US provides research, new tools, capacity building and catalyzes international partnerships.

What WWF Is Doing

Project Spotlight: Sniffing out Illegal Trade

To support enforcement detection of wildlife contraband within shipments at ports, airports, and border crossings, TRAFFIC is developing a transferrable technology to expedite sniffer dog detection of illegal wildlife hidden in freight. The technology is an affordable, generic version of target odor filtering systems that rapidly extract and concentrate odors from freight containers for a dog’s detection. The aim is to make open source technology for conservation applications and wildlife law enforcement using locally sourced materials.

Sniffer dogs in Nepal

Innovation to tackle illegal trade

ivory tusks piled up

TRAFFIC works to support stronger regulations and law enforcement efforts based on research and development of new tools and resources. The delivery of the latest trend analyses, capacity building resources, and applied technologies helps generate new opportunities for effective government responses to predict, detect, and deter wildlife trafficking.

  • Identifying Ivories: The ability to correctly distinguish between ivories as well as lookalikes made from other natural and synthetic materials is critical to combat the threats of illegal wildlife trade globally and to allow the trade in legal ivories. The TRAFFIC team in the US collaborated with the US Fish and Wildlife Service Forensic Laboratory, the CITES Secretariat and WWF to update and expand the Identification Guide for Ivory and Ivory Substitutes, the go-to resource for physical ivory identification. The guide is available in English, Chinese, French and Spanish, to assist law enforcement officers, forensic scientists, online technology company enforcement staff and wildlife trade management authorities.
  • Following the Money: The team is partnering with financial institutions and international providers of data, risk management, and financial sector capacity building, such as ACAMS, to provide critical linkages for law enforcement. The aim is to make it more difficult for known wildlife traffickers to launder funds and receive financing through heightened risk information and alerts as a result of the information, tools, and resources provided by the partners working together with TRAFFIC and WWF.

Preventing pandemics

A pangolin hanging upside down from a tree branch in the forest

The current COVID-19 pandemic has revealed the fragile link between human health and wildlife exploitation, and how poorly regulated and illegal trade in wildlife can catalyze disease transmission and shatter global economies. Experts agree that there is an urgent need for monitoring systems for wildlife markets and supply chains to identify zoonotic risks and prevent a new pandemic. TRAFFIC team in the US is developing and supporting a suite of initiatives and projects with partners globally on learning from COVID-19, to equip the health and environment sector with tools and systems to help prevent viral spillover.

  • Predictive Modeling of High-Risk Taxa: TRAFFIC and WWF are building a collaboration between academic and tech company partners to design a predictive modeling tool that identifies emerging trends in demand for, and sales of, species that are a high risk of zoonotic transmission and identifies hotspots where they are being sold, both in physical and online marketplaces. The machine learning, big data system uses a combination of online search and social media data that overlays offers for sale as wells as desire to purchase high risk species, which is combined with ground-truthed market research and other data sources.

Securing resources and influence

A cardboard box full of confiscated pangolin scales in varying shades of gray and brown.

Confiscated pangolin scales

The TRAFFIC office in the US provides objective research and analysis of wildlife trade and policy to catalyze bipartisan action to tackle illegal and unsustainable wildlife trade domestically and abroad. The team helps to leverage the rich expertise, resources, and influence available in the US for cohesive and impactful programs on wildlife trade. This including assisting with the creation and application of projects such as the USAID Wildlife TRAPS project and USAID ROUTES Partnership, and USAID Wildlife Crime Tech Challenge. The TRAFFIC Senior Director was a member of the Advisory Council to the US Federal Advisory Council to the Presidential Task Force on Wildlife Trafficking from 2013-2017.

Catalyzing the private sector

Baggage is moved across the tarmac at an airport.

Acknowledging that law enforcement alone cannot tackle the challenges of illegal wildlife trade, TRAFFIC partners closely with the Americas-based private sector across global supply chains to transform business operations, shutting down loopholes that enable wildlife trafficking and support regulated, safe, and fair legal trade.

  • The ROUTES Partnership: The USAID Reducing Opportunities for Unlawful Transport of Endangered Species (ROUTES) Partnership brings together transport and logistics companies, government agencies, development groups, law enforcement, conservation organizations, and donors to disrupt wildlife trafficking by reducing the use of legal transportation supply chains and forms a key element of the concerted international response to addressing wildlife poaching and associated criminal activities worldwide. In the Americas, TRAFFIC facilitates outreach and engagement with the ROUTES partners and US government agencies. TRAFFIC leads efforts to implement ROUTES project elements in the Americas, including airports and transport company initiatives in target countries in Latin America and North America.
  • Stopping Illegal Wildlife Trade Online: The Coalition to End Wildlife Trafficking Online unites e-commerce, social media, and search companies to reduce illegal wildlife trade on web-based platforms. Launched in 2018 and jointly convened by WWF, TRAFFIC, and IFAW, the Coalition currently includes nearly 40 member companies. The members work together to harmonize prohibited wildlife policies, train company staff to detect prohibited species, educate and empower users to report wildlife trafficking, enhance automated detection systems and share best practices. The TRAFFIC team in Washington DC coordinates the Coalition globally to synergize efforts and standards of the Coalition and serves as facilitators and experts for the companies.


Coalition to End Wildlife Trafficking Online

The world’s most endangered species are under threat from an unsuspecting source—the Internet.


  • The Legacy of the USAID ROUTES Partnership

    For over six years, the USAID Reducing Opportunities for Unlawful Transport of Endangered Species (ROUTES) Partnership brought together government agencies, law enforcement, non-governmental organizations, and transport sector companies to disrupt wildlife trafficking through legal transportation supply chains in the aviation industry.