In 2014, the President of the United States Barack Obama signed the National Strategy for Combating Illegal Wildlife Trafficking (IWT). This was followed in 2016 with the Eliminate, Neutralize, and Disrupt Wildlife Trafficking (END) Act. Similarly, the UK announced a Commitment to Action on the Illegal Wildlife Trade in 2014, pledging £10 million to support efforts to combat IWT. And, at the end of 2017, the International Consortium on Combating Wildlife Crime (ICCWC)  announced an additional $20 million for similar purposes. The result of these and many other declarations and policies has been an increase in international, bilateral, and multilateral assistance for combatting wildlife crime and trafficking.
Much of the efforts to address wildlife crime have focused on anti-poaching in protected areas, or designated spaces of wildlife conservation. We see, for example, an intensification in green militarization, or “the use of military and paramilitary (military-like) actors, techniques, technologies, and partnerships in the pursuit of conservation.” Examples of green militarization include the use of more forceful and violent practices, the application of military-style thinking, technologies and approaches such as counter-insurgency strategies, the hiring of current and former military personnel, and the (para)military training of conservation rangers. The objective is to secure protected areas and the wildlife within them from suspected poachers. Such practices, however, have been met with criticism as they further restrict access to land and resources of people living in and around conservation spaces. Moreover, forceful and militarized approaches can undermine human rights as exemplified by the use of (often deadly) force against suspected poachers and the communities from which they come. Together, these exacerbate tensions between conservation and people living in and around conservation areas. There is thus an on-going debate about the limitations of a militarized approach to conservation in the short and the long-term.
The rise in militarized conservation emerges in part from the framing of poaching and illegal wildlife trade as an issue of national and global security. Concerning the former, commercial poaching is seen to undermine national and regional economies, weaken governance, and thus contribute to instability. The latter ties in closely to narratives that the illegal wildlife trade, especially the trade in elephant ivory, putatively funds terrorist and extremist organizations like Boko Haram, al-Shabaab, and the Lord’s Resistance Army. Such claims, however, are not supported by clear evidence and have thus been disputed. Despite this, these claims are used to drum up support for militarized forms of conservation and anti-poaching, including the use of militaries themselves.
International assistance now increasingly focuses on transnational organized crime
International assistance for combating wildlife crime and trafficking is also shaped by framings of illegal wildlife trade as a criminal issue, and specifically an issue of transnational organized crime. This way of understanding and approaching illegal wildlife trade is increasing and has entailed enforcement interventions that move away from protected areas to the supply-chain. While there is often overlap between militarized and law enforcement approaches as in other sectors, we do see an increase in assistance for programmes and interventions that fall into the second category. This includes the involvement of law enforcement agencies in providing assistance to addressing the illegal wildlife trade. The US Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs (INL), for example, has increased its efforts to counter international crime providing assistance to strengthen legal, justice, police, and corrections systems. Speaking of the transnational nature of illegal wildlife trade as an organized crime, the Acting Deputy Assistant Secretary of the INL explained:
"With this in mind, we certainly strive to help partner nations in Africa, Southeast Asia, and in the Americas to improve their enforcement, their investigative skills, prosecutorial capabilities, and their legislative capacities, and we encourage, obviously, cooperation within and across governments. Now to date, our training efforts have reached just over two thousand justice sector officials throughout the world, who combat wildlife trafficking, including conservation law enforcement officers."
The INL currently has a budget of approximately $50 million to combat wildlife trafficking, up from a mere $100,000 five years ago. The United States Agency for International Development (USAID), INTERPOL, ICCWC, UNODC, World Bank and many others similarly provide tens of millions of dollars to strengthen the capacities of investigators, prosecutors, and judges to effectively deal with wildlife crime.
There are four key areas in which law enforcement related assistance can be categorized: 1) Strengthening legislation related to wildlife crime and illegal wildlife trade; 2) Building policing and investigatory capacity for addressing wildlife crime; 3) Improving legal, prosecutorial, and justice sector capacity to deal with wildlife crime and illegal wildlife trade; 4) Working with partners to disrupt the flow of wildlife products and wildlife traffickers.
An example of assistance materializing on the ground: Mozambique
Both an important source and transit country for the illegal wildlife trade, Mozambique has received substantial assistance from the US, World Bank, CITES, TRAFFIC, among many other NGOs, governments, and international institutions to address it. The result over the past five years has been a drastic change in how wildlife crime is perceived and addressed.
In 2014, Mozambique passed the Conservation Areas Law and updated its Penal Code to move illegal hunting from a conservation infraction punishable by a fine to a crime punishable by 8-12 years in prison. This was accompanied by the creation of the Políciade Proteção de Recursos Naturais e Meio Ambiente (PRNMA), commonly referred to as the Environmental Police. 1,500 PRNMA officers were trained and deployed throughout the country to police environmental crime, with commercial poaching of rhinos and elephants being a particular focus. International assistance has also supported the training of criminal investigators, prosecutors, and judges in the nuances and specifics of wildlife crime so that they can more effectively investigate and prosecute the new legislation and crimes related to illegal wildlife trade more generally. And, programmes like ROUTES , among others, work to train staff at airports and other ports of entry and exit to better detect illegal wildlife products and trafficking.
The need for socio-economic development assistance
A move towards these more law enforcement approaches is a welcome approach for many as it shifts the focus away from the militarization and securitization of protected areas to look more holistically at illegal wildlife trade beyond the act of hunting. Of particular importance are efforts to target the traffickers and middle-men that enable illegal wildlife trade to flourish and connect sites of source and demand. Moreover, strengthening legal and justice systems might have positive ripple effects for governance more broadly.
However, and even if this proves to be the case, there is an issue that warrants attention. Alongside law enforcement assistance there is also an increasing amount of assistance to support demand reduction efforts for wildlife products. But, the more complicated issue of increasing the socio-economic standing of people living in and around protected areas where much illegal hunting happens is still receiving relatively low funding and attention in terms of a focus area for addressing wildlife crime. Law enforcement approaches do not address the root causes and drivers of poaching in source countries, like Mozambique, and how in many cases "wildlife crime" is a holdover over from colonial-era policies that criminalized the livelihoods and resource-use practices of local and indigenous peoples. With this in mind, international assistance, especially coming from development assistance institutions like the World Bank and USAID must not forget assistance aimed at addressing the root causes of why people in source countries might risk their lives and freedom to hunt illegally in the first place. At minimum, law enforcement and criminal justice approaches must not replicate and exacerbate already existing inequalities and socio-economic injustices that in many instances are necessary to be addressed for a long-term, holistic and sustainable approach to the illicit extraction and trade in biodiversity.
 The ICCWC consists of CITES, INTERPOL, UNODC, the World Bank, and the World Customs Organization.
 Reducing Opportunities for Unlawful Transport of Endangered Species.