8,784 animals died between 2015 and 2020 in Spain due to wildlife crime

News - 2023.6.1

In the absence of an official, centralised database to monitor the illegal mortality of protected wildlife in Spain, the most exhaustive analysis of this problem in our country to date was presented this week. It has been prepared by the WWF together with the International Centre for Environmental Law Studies (CIEDA-CIEMAT), the University of Granada and the Institute for Advanced Social Studies (IESA-CSIC). According to the investigation, authorities compiled a total of 4,902 cases of crimes committed against protected wildlife species between 2015 and 2020, involving the deaths of at least 8,784 animals.

These official data, obtained from requests for information from the autonomous communities, are only the tip of the iceberg, as most cases go undetected: for example, it is estimated that just one of these crimes (the use of poison in the countryside) leads to the death of around 10,000 animals each year, and that only 10-15% of poisoning cases come to light. The reason for this is the enormous extension of the territory to be covered, together with the lack of human resources, although technologies such as the use of GPS devices in wildlife conservation projects, the development of specialised police units and the use of canine patrols are contributing significantly to detection.

Loss of biodiversity

Wildlife crime is devastating for biodiversity, especially when it affects endangered species. The use of poisons, illegal hunting and fishing, the use of prohibited methods of capture and trafficking pose a serious risk to these species, and in many cases are linked to organised crime or other crimes, such as drug trafficking.

Despite the seriousness of these offences, very few of them are ever prosecuted, but are rather dealt with administratively (e.g., with a fine) or they remain unresolved. According to the research, there were only 327 court sentences out of the 4,902 cases of wildlife crime registered in Spain (6.67% of the cases), meaning that 93% of the cases were not prosecuted.

The most frequent convictions were for possession of illegal hunting and fishing gear (213 convictions), the illegal sale and purchase of wildlife (32 convictions) and the use of poison (26 convictions).

Focusing on the number of cases, the most frequent crimes were poaching (1,773 cases), poisoning (1,899 cases) and the use or possession of illegal trapping methods (446). Impunity is particularly high in cases of illegal hunting: only 0.8% of registered cases resulted in a court ruling.

Spain, a benchmark in surveillance and whistleblowing

The research is part of the European project LIFE SWiPE (Successful Pursuit of Wildlife Crime), an initiative in which 11 countries have joined forces over three years to reduce wildlife crime by improving coordination, training and cross-border cooperation. The project has uncovered that Spain is at the forefront in Europe in certain areas of the fight against wildlife crime, an example of which are our multidisciplinary teams combating the use of poison in the countryside.

To move forward, a hundred key actors in the chain of the fight against wildlife crime - from judges and prosecutors to environmental agents and Europol representatives - met these two days in Madrid at a conference to exchange experiences and knowledge, organised by WWF Spain in collaboration with the Ministry of Ecological Transition and Demographic Challenge, and with guidance from CIEDA-CIEMAT.

In Spain there are legal instruments and tools to fight these crimes effectively, including environmental agents from the autonomous communities, customs, a specialised police force, SEPRONA, which is a benchmark in Europe, and a coordinating Environmental Prosecutor's Office.

The MITECO-SEPRONA partnership has made it possible to reinforce the fight against illegal wildlife trafficking, highlighting the consolidation of specific training courses, improvement in the number and results of operations against wildlife trafficking, the creation of the National Central Office for information on illegal environmental activities and the consolidation of the Jaguar network for EU-Iberoamerican cooperation, among others.


The TIFIES Plan has its origins in the European Action Plan against Trafficking in Wildlife, with Spain the first European state to adopt an action plan of this kind.

Following a period of review and consultation, in November 2022 the EU revised the EU Action Plan against Wildlife Trafficking, with a new horizon until 2027. Building on the experience generated, it now aims to respond to current challenges in a comprehensive manner, including taking into account the zoonotic risks associated with wildlife trafficking and strengthening the fight against illegal trafficking via the internet.

In line with the revision of the European Action Plan, MITECO has started the process of updating the TIFIES Plan, with an initial consultation with the ministries involved followed by the corresponding consultation with the TIFIES Plan's collaborating entities.

The new TIFIES Plan aims precisely to strengthen the figure of the Partner Entity, a unique initiative of the Spanish Plan to encourage the involvement of civil society, academia and the private business sector, taking advantage of the synergies that can also be established at international level, particularly with Latin America and Africa.

Non official translation