Wildlife Enforcement Monitoring System (WEMS) Initiative

WEMS is an environmental governance project and its objective is to assist monitoring trafficking and illegal wildlife crime through a joint effort carried out by United Nations bodies, national governments, private industries, civil society and research institutions. WEMS brings together national enforcement institutions to a common data collection and reporting mechanism through the WEMS 2.0 information system.  The compiled data will be then analyzed and selected non nominal information will be made available online through the WEMS initiative website. WEMS will also help in providing analysed information electronically to all partnering national enforcement agencies and international policy makers including Interpol and CITES Secretariat. Selected information will be shared with the public for bringing awareness about wildlife crime. 

Research and analysis of the crime data will be carried out through a designated  research institution which will also carry out policy analysis identifying the trends and reasons for non-compliance ( which is also in accordance to CITES Resolution 10.3 )


The need of WEMS was realised during a time when poaching and illegal trade was rampant around the world and information gap on the amount of illegal trade taking place.  Research on illegal wildlife trade issues were limited as scientists didn't have sufficient information to quantify the threat to biodivesity. During this time, the United Nations, through its Economic and Social Council, urged member states to adopt preventive measures, as well as to review their criminal legislation with a view to monitor offences relating to trafficking in protected species of wild flora and fauna. The  UN General Assembly resolution, document A/CONF.203/PM.1, highlifhted the need of  comprehensive approach in combating willdife trade including measures that builds on areas of success, remedies deficiencies and weakness in laws and enforcement efforts.  The absence of measurable data on the violations of wildlife trade regulations lead to less penalisation, rare application of appropriate sanctions and penalties mostly remained relatively low.

The challenges in combating wildlife crime was also highlighted during the conferance of parties of the CITES convention and the lack of information and failures of information system were noted.

Understanding the significance and importance of research into the issue of illegal trade, in October 2005, United Nations University joined hands with Asian Conservation alliance to develop a system that will for the first time quantify illegal trade in the Asian region through the Wildlife Enforcement Monitoring System Initiative. The primary objective of the joint collaboration was to immediately address 3 important issues;

  • Absence of an official record on the amount of illegal trade of wild flora and fauna.
  • Poor reporting process regarding the compliance to Multilateral Environmental Agreements (MEA).
  • Absence of research data on illegal wildlife crime.

The first step in addressing the above issues was to build a database on wildlife crime information providing both spatial and non spatial information. Designated partner NGO's were requested to collect information through information disclosure law and input this information in a common information sharing platform. The database was designed in line with the INTERPOL ecomessage. The first prototype of WEMS was released in 2006 using data from Japan.

WEMS model was then presented at several meetings including  CITES Mekong Regional meeting held in Kunming and the Interpol Wildlife Working Group meeting in Beijing in July  and, at United Nations University in August 2006. It was later demonstrated to the parties of the CITES convention during CITES CoP 14 held in the Hague in 2007.

After 2007, United Nations University decided to re-constitute the WEMS system to the needs of  governments and the system was redesigned to cater to the needs of national enforcement agencies. The re-designed version of WEMS was presented at the CITES Enforcement expert group meeting held in Ashland, Oregon in June 2009 and the CITES CoP 15 held at Doha in March 2010.

In 2011, United Nations University- Institute for Advanced Studies (UNU-IAS) in partnership with Faculty of Geoinformation Science and Earth Observation of University of Twente and Lusaka Agreement, decided to implement WEMS in 6 African countries, which were member states to Lusaka Agreement. The pilot phase of WEMS-Africa will be carried out in Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania. 


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