Despite the fact that most countries have joined the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), laws governing the trade in wildlife and wildlife products are often complex, varying between countries and regions.
The disjointed nature of the legal framework creates loopholes that can be exploited to enable and sustain the illegal wildlife trade (IWT) along international trading routes.
For instance, although there are EU-wide regulations in place, there are often regional exceptions, making it difficult to monitor and enforce the implementation of international laws at national borders. At the same time, weak regulations on certification and labelling can veil illegal origins of specific wildlife products, such as caviar.
Our research explores the interaction of the legal and illegal. Through the use of in-depth case studies, we examine the legal loopholes and grey markets of the illegal wildlife trade and illustrate that the legal and the illegal spheres are often closely intertwined. We illuminate how the tightening of regulations in one country or policy area can shift criminality to other regions or policy fields. Placing these insights in wider structural contexts, we question the notion of poverty as a driver of IWT.
Instead, our research critically interrogates how wealth and notions of luxury influence consumer behaviour, and how and under what circumstances they function as key motivating factors in the exploitation of legal loopholes.