By Sal Amato
Historically, wildlife trafficking has been a high reward, low risk enterprise for those willing to seek profit in the black market trade of contraband items. Combine limited risk of detection, extremely high profits, and small to non-existent penalties if caught, and not surprisingly, wildlife trafficking becomes a very attractive method of illicit gain.
Compared to other transnational criminal activities, wildlife trafficking has historically been considered a low priority by many law enforcement agencies. Crimes deemed low priority typically do not receive the same amount of effort in terms of manpower and resources as those viewed as a higher priority. Case in point is the extremely limited or non-existent use of specialized investigative techniques by many countries involved in combating wildlife trafficking.
The players involved in the exploitation of wildlife for profit and wildlife trafficking are organized, and frequently utilize sophisticated methods to conduct their activities. To effectively address the level of sophistication and organization currently seen in wildlife trafficking international law enforcement must make use of modern investigative methods commonly known as specialized investigative techniques. In the United States, specialized investigative techniques, including undercover businesses, have long been considered essential to the detection, prevention, and prosecution of priority areas of investigation — including wildlife crimes. With very few exceptions this is not the case in much of the European Union, Africa and Asia.
Undercover operations allow law enforcement to get inside criminal entities, to find out how they work, and to identify who the players are. Undercover work can be a very effective method of addressing criminal activity that simply cannot be addressed by any other method. Undercover operations allow law enforcement to infiltrate criminal enterprises, document violations from the inside, and identify ringleaders, masterminds and kingpins. They also enable collection of evidence, including the level of knowledge by those responsible, as well as their intent. Consequently, prosecutions of undercover investigations have a very high rate of conviction and significantly larger penalties as compared to other types of investigative work. More....