RUSI to investigate financial crime responses to wildlife trafficking in West and Central Africa


A new RUSI project will address financial crime responses to wildlife trafficking in West and Central Africa.

Entitled “Follow the Money: Combatting the Illegal Wildlife Trade in West and Central Africa” the project is funded by GIZ and will focus on “follow the money” approaches to illegal wildlife trade (IWT)This project will produce the first regional knowledge and capacity assessment on illicit financial flows and wildlife trafficking in West and Central Africa. Working with dedicated local partners, the project will focus on case studies in Togo, Nigeria and Cameroon.  

IWT is a highly lucrative form of transnational crime. In recent years, West and Central Africa have become globally significant sources and transit hubs for illegally trafficked wildlife and forestry products. In early 2020, UNODC analysis identified Nigeria as the single largest global exporter of illegal trafficked pangolins. A recent report from World Animal Protection highlighted issues with the trade and sale of ball pythons from Togo, which accounts alongside Benin and Ghana for 99% of the global trade of the species. Although the coronavirus pandemic has also shone new light on illegal supply routes throughout the region , the Cameroonian Ministry of Forests and Wildlife highlighted concerns over the gradual disappearance of the pangolin species on World Pangolin Day in February 2020.    

Increasing the use of financial investigations in IWT cases has been recognised by the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) and Financial Action Task Force as an important tool in combatting wildlife trafficking in the region. ‘Follow the money’ approaches include the use of anti-money laundering legislation to prosecute offenders and financial investigation techniques.  

This project will culminate in a publicly available RUSI research paper, published in January 2021. The research aims to inform future evidence-based capacity building projects and will include recommendations for policymakers and practitioners working to combat IWT in the region. 

The project builds on RUSI’s environmental crime programme, established in 2014This new research will draw on RUSI’s considerable experience researching follow the money approaches and IWT in East and Southern Africa. Since 2016, RUSI has run the project ‘Disrupting Wildlife-Linked Illicit Financial Flows in East/Southern Africa’, leading research in Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, Mozambique, Malawi and Zambia. Publications include policy reportscase studies and financial investigation resources for practitioners 

For more information, please contact: Tom Keatinge, Director, Centre for Financial Crime and Security Studies (tomk@rusi.org), or Alexandria Reid, Research FellowOrganised Crime and Policing, (alexandriar@rusi.org). 

This project is funded by the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) under the Partnership against Poaching and Illegal Wildlife Trade 


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Tom Keatinge

Director, CFCS

Centre for Financial Crime and Security Studies

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Alexandria Reid

Research Fellow

Organised Crime and Policing

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