Crime, Justice, and a Cleaner Future

In our 17th Anantara Hotels Resorts & Spas #ElephantProfessional lecture, Justin Gosling, ex-detective and founder of WildCrime, unveiled the dark truths about wildlife trafficking and other environmental crimes.

The Elephant in the room


It is often brought to the table. To the point where our foundation co-created a video urging people not to buy ivory souvenirs and gifts.

But the tragedy of elephant trafficking does not end there.

According to former police officer Justin Gosling, African elephants are subject to ivory and live trade, whereas their Asian counterpart is threatened additionally by elephant skin trade.

Elephant skin processed into ornamental beads and sold online. Screenshots from Gosling’s lecture.

The elephant skin trade is a relatively new trend, where the elephant skin is harvested and then either processed into powder for medicinal use or ornamental beads for accessories.

Gosling has participated in a live trade research starting in 2014, looking at the proportion of wild-captured and captive-bred young elephants in elephants camps.

On top of smuggling wild elephants, the research team also tried to understand inter-breeding, which is an attempt to impregnate a captive female elephant by chaining it in the forest during low tourist season and waiting for a wild bull elephant to discover it.

Activities offered by elephant camps. Screenshots from Gosling’s lecture.

During their investigation, they also discovered that some elephant camps were providing entertainment and commercial services while disguised as conservation centers. The elephants involved would often suffer from injuries during the “training” process.

Although conducting the research was a time-consuming process, they eventually gathered and presented the useful data to CITES, the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora, in hopes of further tackling elephant-related trades.

Gosling’s list of environmental crime solutions

Holding a Masters degree in International Criminal Justice, Gosling highlighted that environmental crimes go beyond elephants and live trades. From the smuggling of sea cucumber and sea horses, to electronic waste (E-waste) and ozone damage, all criminal activities deserve more attention from the public.

“There is a culture of finding a criminal and not looking beyond that,” exerted Gosling, “you do not need intelligence to combat wildlife crimes.”

Below you can find Gosling’s suggested list of top 10 wildlife crime solutions:

10. Be evidential/ crime-scene centric: e.g., getting more evidence from the poaching scene, containers, etc.

9. Use controlled deliveries: track the criminal activities across continents and countries; don’t just stop after one big seizure.

Human finger print found on a confiscated pangolin scale. Screenshot from Gosling’s lecture

8. Conventional forensics: collect evidence using traditional forensics (e.g., human finger prints)

7. Identify additional suspects: find leads from known suspects (e.g., tracking their cellphone records)

6. International liaison: more communication and cooperation between countries

5. Indictable: from Gosling’s experience, most wildlife crimes can only be heard in the lower courts in UK. They need to be moved to higher courts.

4. financial disincentives: convicts should also be subject to proceeds of crime as well as seizure of assets

3. Impact assessment/ statement: impact assessment or statement need to be presented to court to reveal the true impacts to the environment.

2. Create deterrents: e.g., publicizing cases in order to deter future loss.

1. Prioritize environmental crimes as serious actions not promises: we as societies need to stop accepting the lack of resources allocated to anti-trafficking measures as an excuse.

You can now get in touch with Justin Gosling through his website or twitter @wildcrimepro

Disclaimer: the views and opinions expressed by the speaker do not necessarily represent Golden Triangle Asian Elephant Foundation.