Global scoping of wildlife crime offences, penalties, and statistics
At a time of escalating biodiversity and climate crises, there is an urgent need to effectively respond to harms and crimes toward wildlife and the environment. This study gathers information for a global scoping analysis of wildlife offences and penalties, and of the availability of crime statistics. This is a starting point for assessing the effectiveness of mainstream criminal justice responses (fines and prison) to wildlife crime and a baseline for comparing restorative justice as an alternative approach. We examine 1,256 pieces of legislation from 185 countries to assess the scope of wildlife-related offences and their corresponding penalties. The analysis shows that penalties are highly varied around the globe, although fines and imprisonment are the predominant response. What counts as a wildlife offence is highly variable across wildlife, forestry, fisheries, and environmental legislation. This also makes for differences in the way government departments identify and prosecute wildlife offences. To display the complexity of the data we introduce a publicly available dashboard and database detailing offence types and penalties, including restorative and non-custodial actions. We then make a rapid assessment of the availability of official sources of wildlife crime statistics, highlighting how very few countries make this information publicly available. This limits our ability to assess whether wildlife offences are being sanctioned as the law requires and whether enforcement reduces re-offending. To make wildlife crime prevention and disruption strategies more effective, better data on wildlife law enforcement and its long-term impacts are urgently needed.