Gao, Mali: Photography by C4ADS

Environmental Crimes Fusion Cell


Environmental Crimes Fusion Cell
Illicit Network Mapping
Special Projects

Enviromental Crimes Fusion Cell

The global trade in illicit environmental products has become a multi-billion dollar industry. Wildlife and timber traffickers have demonstrated a detailed understanding of the legal systems they abuse, moving millions of dollars of contraband through international systems of finance and transportation. Organizations seeking to combat this trade are under resourced and struggling to effectively communicate across jurisdictions, sectors, and interests. C4ADS’ Environmental Crimes Fusion Cell was built to bridge this gap.

We work with a global network of 150 partner organizations across the conservation, enforcement, and regulatory communities to transform raw field data into actionable results. We actively support enforcement and policy initiatives in a variety of ways, including through the Reducing Opportunities for Unlawful Transport of Endangered Species (ROUTES) Partnership.

August 22, 2017


Once essential to the economy of the Gulf of California in Mexico, the totoaba fish has suffered a precipitous decline over the past century due to overfishing. The problem reached its zenith in the 1970s, resulting in a ban on totoaba fishing, and the species' receipt of the highest levels of protection under Mexican, U.S., and international law. After a few decades of comparative calm, the totoaba is under attach once again. Illegal fishermen hoping to amass a few kilograms of the totoaba's famed bladders--potentially earning them over a year's salary in a single night--are destabilizing the remaining totoaba population. 

 But the totoaba's high value signals trouble for more than just the continued viability of the species; the nets used to catch them, called gillnets, are devastating marine life in the Gulf. One species in particular, the vaquita, the world's smallest porpoise species, has suffered disproportionately from the resurgence of totoaba poaching. A reclusive and shy animal, the vaquita have suffered substantial losses at the hands of totoaba poachers, declining from 567 individuals in 1997 to an estimated 26 by May 2017.


May 22, 2017


Environmental crime is estimated to be worth between $91 and $251 billion, with wildlife crime making up $7 to $23 billion of the total, and is currently estimated to be growing at two to three times the speed of the global economy. Over the past few years, myriad studies and reports have examined the economic and environmental devastation wreaked by wildlife crime, as well as its intertwining links to transnational criminal networks. Few studies, however, have focused on the transport systems used by wildlife traffickers have gained from the increasing interconnectedness of global infrastructure and transport systems. Flying Under the Radar examines wildlife trafficking through the air transport sector, and is designed to support law enforcement and the private sector's efforts to stem the hidden flow of illegal wildlife through their jurisdictions and supply chains.  



May 31, 2015

The recognition of wildlife crime as a global transnational crime threat has taken on new urgency since President Obama’s 2013 Executive Order on Combating Wildlife Trafficking. Meanwhile, private transportation logistics and financial services companies have independently expressed concern due to their potential exposure to wildlife and environmental transnational organized crime (TOC) activity, and also a desire to take action. A key impediment to addressing their concerns has been a lack of information on both the types of supply chain abuse that may occur and the types of wildlife criminal networks that may be operating. Such information may help refine and strengthen compliance controls to ensure that funds and services reach their intended beneficiaries.



August 22, 2014

Global environmental crime is estimated by the United Nations to be worth as much as $213 billion annually. Over $23 billion is attributed to the illegal wildlife trade alone, of which ivory is an important component. Across Africa, as much as 5-7% of the elephant population is being slaughtered annually by a wide range of highly militarized actors, closely tied to conflict, organized crime, and political corruption. The price of ivory has skyrocketed from USD $5/kg in 1989 to a wholesale price of USD $2,100/kg in China in 2014, with retail prices much higher. To achieve this value, a trafficking organization must source, consolidate, transport, and sell ivory along an extremely long and complex supply chain that crosses borders and oceans and travels from the remotest corners of Africa thousands of miles to retail markets in Asia. 



April 1, 2014

Elephant ivory poaching is no longer solely a conservation issue. As poaching reaches levels that threaten to render African elephants close to extinction within the next ten years, it also find a wide range of destabilizing actors across Africa, with significant implications for human conflict. A single elephant yields 10kg of ivory, worth approximately $30,000; and conservative estimates suggest that 23,000 elephants were killed in 2013. With the true figure likely much higher, the ivory trade could be worth as much as a billion dollars annually, and will likely increase with the escalating retail price of ivory. This report provides 7 detailed country case studies of how these profits empower a wide range of African conflict actors.

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