AHS-O1-3. The Nexus Between Illicit Wildlife Trafficking and Terrorism

Elia Del Carmen Solano-Patricio1
Faculty Mentor: Terance D. Miethe, Ph.D.2
1Greenspun College of Urban Affairs, School of Public Policy and Leadership
2Greenspun College of Urban Affairs, Department of Criminal Justice

Is the nexus between illicit wildlife trafficking (IWT) and terrorism real or purported? A review of 21st-century literature suggests that researchers are divided. Zoonotic diseases such as the COVID-19 pandemic occur via the transmission of viruses from animals to humans. They are increasingly pervasive not just as a public health issue, but as a security concern as well. While trillions of dollars have gone toward counterterrorism since the 9/11 attack, relatively little is spent policing the various illicit economies that finance terrorist groups. According to the Congressional Research Service, IWT ranks in the upper tier of the world’s most lucrative illicit economies, behind only drug trafficking, human trafficking, and the illegal weapons trade. One perspective argues that the nexus is real since many of the same groups dealing in commodities like weapons or drugs also deal in wildlife. Poachers are becoming increasingly sophisticated, often using the same tactics and complex distribution networks used by organized crime and militant groups. Several militant groups have long engaged in IWT, including the Taliban in Afghanistan, the FARC in Colombia, and the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia to name a few. The counter-perspective argues that IWT accounts for only a small portion of terrorist financing; overstating this nexus can result in the over-militarization of law enforcement against wildlife trafficking, and thus more violence. Previous research has examined the topic primarily through a regional lens. This study therefore examines the sources, convergences, and divergent elements of IWT and other forms of organized crime worldwide.

This research was funded by UNLV’s TRIO McNair Scholars Institute, which is housed within UNLV’s Center for Academic Enrichment and Outreach and funded under the TRIO Ronald E. McNair Postbaccalaureate Achievement Program by a grant (P217A170069) from the U.S. Department of Education. 


Nov 15 - 19 2021


All Day


AHS: Podium Session 1
The Office of Undergraduate Research


The Office of Undergraduate Research


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