Family of elephants in Tsavo East National Park, Kenya, 2016. Photo (c): Tim Wittig, all rights reserved.


At last it looks as if our people are awakening."

- Theodore Roosevelt, “Our Vanishing Wildlife" (1913)


Dr. Timothy Wittig is a conservationist, scientist, and wildlife trafficking expert. He is a tenured professor in International Relations as well as a seasoned practitioner in the fields of intelligence, African and global security, and targeting illicit networks. 

Since 2016, Tim has served as senior analyst and head of intelligence and analysis for the United for Wildlife Taskforces, a program of the Royal Foundation that uses high-level commitments combined with actionable intelligence to mobilize the worlds’ shipping, transport, and financial industries to help defeat global wildlife trafficking. In 2019, Tim joined the Basel Institute on Governance to continue and expand this work.

Tim is neither a biologist nor an activist. He came to work in conservation because he believes reversing our current catastrophic destruction of nature is the single most important human issue of our time - a literal life-and-death struggle for the future of the planet and humanity itself. But a struggle that can be won. Not by simply ‘listening to the scientists’ or chasing magic bullets, but by bringing people together around proven best practice in things like law and customs enforcement, corporate risk management, political and social action, economic and institutional reform, and the empowerment and mobilization of local communities. Tim’s work focuses on one subset of this - working with law enforcement and the private sector to help end the global poaching and wildlife trafficking crisis.

To learn more, check out / download some of Tim’s recent publications or feel free to reach out directly.



Terrorism, Conflict, and Ivory Trafficking: Myth & Reality (Italian Institute for International Political Studies, 2018)

Poaching, Wildlife Trafficking, and Organized Crime (in Haenlein, Cathy, M. L. R. Smith, eds. Poaching, Wildlife Trafficking and Security in Africa: Myths and Realities. Whitehall Paper 86. London: Royal United Services Institute for Defence and Security Studies, 2016.)

A Social Model of Conservation to Fight Wildlife Trafficking: What Conservationists Can Learn from Public Health (Working Paper (2015, minor updates 2017)) 

Threat Finance (in Hahn, Erin, ed. Special Topics in Irregular Warfare: Understanding Resistance. US Army Special Operations Command, 2016)



Botswana lifts ban on elephant hunting CBS News

Wittig noted that the "human-wildlife conflict" cited by Botswana's government on Thursday is in fact "an important driver of involvement in poaching and wildlife trafficking. People living close to wildlife must feel they have a stake in protecting it."

"Organized criminal networks often prey on people in communities with unresolved human-wildlife conflict, offering them easy money to get involved in poaching or wildlife trafficking," Wittig said.

How to Stop Poaching and Protect Endangered Species? Forget the ‘Kingpins’ New York Times

In the West, “organized criminals live in a somewhat parallel society,” said Tim Wittig, a conservation scientist at the University of Groningen in the Netherlands. But among wildlife traffickers, “the big criminals are typically also big business people.”

“Usually, they’re involved in logistics-type businesses — trading or shipping companies, for example — or in commodity-based ones, which is why it’s easy for them to move things around,” he added.

These individuals are sometimes referred to as kingpins, a term that experts say is overused.

“Arresting a few alleged wildlife-trafficking ‘kingpins’ may be a useful symbolic tool for promoting the importance and feasibility of strong enforcement to the general public,” Dr. Wittig said. But “it is not likely to be effective in actually saving protected wildlife, especially if done in isolation.”

Changing this largely depends on changing the way the world addresses illegal wildlife trade.