Decoupling Policy and Practice in the Fight against Wildlife Smuggling

Chang Han*, H. Nelen

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Biodiversity is under threat from wildlife crime. Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) is one of the most well-known instruments among the plethora that exists to protect endangered wildlife species. Trade ban and control are vital components of its wildlife protection mechanism. Customs play a crucial role in CITES enforcement. The World Customs Organization's recent survey on customs' approach to wildlife smuggling revealed that half of the administrations surveyed do not monitor their anti-wildlife smuggling activities. This study has examined why some customs tackle wildlife smuggling symbolically, whereas others have adopted an instrumental approach, drawing on institutional theory. The primary discovery has been that customs' symbolic approach is related to the extent of the modernization of a customs administration rather than the demand for legitimacy and support from external stakeholders.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)132-151
Number of pages20
JournalBritish Journal of Criminology
Issue number1
Early online date10 Oct 2015
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2017


  • customs
  • decoupling
  • symbolic approach
  • wildlife smuggling


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