Environmental Investigation Agency

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For other uses, see EIA.

The Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA) is an NGO founded in 1984 by Dave Currey, Jennifer Lonsdale and Allan Thornton, three environmental activists in the United Kingdom.[1] Its stated goal is to investigate and expose crimes against wildlife and the environment.[2] Full-time EIA investigators work undercover gathering film, photos and information from around the world. The evidence they collect is presented to the media, government and policy makers in order to inform and persuade that action must be taken in order to protect the planet's most precious species, habitats and vital ecosystems.[3]

EIA also campaigns to prevent environmental crime. Currently EIA is working to:



In April 2012 the IPS reported that the Environmental Investigation Agency found over 20 U.S. companies who imported illegally logged timber worth millions from the Peruvian Amazon. The EIA multi-year investigation discovered at least 112 shipments of protected cedar and mahogany were illegally laundered with fabricated papers and imported by U.S. companies between 2008 and 2010.[4]

EIA's Forest Team carried out a scoping project in South East Asia, where the wooden garden furniture industry is booming. Undercover EIA investigators, posing as timber traders and furniture buyers, documented evidence of illegal timber feeding furniture factories on a large scale. EIA published its evidence in April 2008[5] with the aim of raising awareness of cross-border timber smuggling among both consumers and the international community. Similar work in Indonesia has successfully reduced the amount of illegal timber leaving the country and led to international action to protect endangered species.[6]

In November 2007, Indonesian NGOs launched a set of films, made with Papuan villagers, to tell the stories of how their communities had been adversely affected by destructive logging and oil palm plantations. By training the local NGOs in research, filming and editing skills, EIA and their Indonesian partner, Telapak, were able to empower those most vulnerable to the threats of deforestation - the forest-reliant communities themselves - and enable them to have their voice heard internationally.[7]

Asian Big Cats[edit]

EIA is presently working with a coalition of organisations to ensure China maintains its internal ban on tiger trading. 2007's meeting of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) in the Netherlands resulted in a strong resolution stating that "tigers should not be bred for the trade in their parts and derivatives".[8]

The ban was introduced in 1993, but EIA claims powerful business lobbies connected to tiger 'farms' are currently pressing the Chinese Authorities to allow the sale of skins and body parts from captive-bred tigers – with potentially devastating consequences for the remaining wild populations.[9] EIA states that it will continue to investigate, document and expose illegal trade in tiger parts and their derivatives, and the criminals who profit from their slaughter. They also call upon India and China to adopt intelligence-led enforcement methods and work with the International Tiger Coalition to urge the Chinese authorities to phase out tiger 'farms' and destroy the stockpiles of tiger parts.[10]


EIA continues to work through the International Whaling Commission (IWC) to ensure that the ban on commercial whaling remains in place despite the pressure from Japan and Norway to over-turn it. The ban is one of the most successful conservation measures of all times and has given great whales time to recover from the decimation of the past.

Japan legally kills minke and great whales for 'scientific research', however EIA has reported that Japan also kills up to 20,000 small whales, dolphins and porpoises (cetaceans) each year in its coastal waters.[11] EIA's work is focused on reducing the demand for cetacean products on sale in Japan. They have exposed the threats to those consuming cetacean products from the pollutants found in the meat and blubber. As a result, they claim that over 2,500 supermarket stores no longer sell these products, and enormous pressure is being placed on corporations with links to this trade to end their involvement.[12]


EIA carried out its first pioneering undercover investigations into the ivory trade in 1987. Investigators travelled through parts of Africa, the Middle East and Asia uncovering the true nature of a business that had reduced the population of African elephants from 1.3 million to only 600,000 in ten years. The ivory ban (1990) would not have been in place without EIA.[13][14] Two founding directors - Dave Currey and Allan Thornton - were awarded the Albert Schweitzer Medal for their work by the Animal Welfare Institute.[15]

Since then investigators have continued to uncover the unpalatable truth about some aspects of this trade, such as military involvement in South Africa and Zimbabwe, and ivory used as currency to buy arms in conflict areas.[16][17]

EIA continues to add a real ground-truthing to the debates that surround elephants and the ivory trade. Recent reports have focused on China's new role in providing an insatiable demand in ivory since it was officially allowed to buy ivory stockpiles in 2008 by CITES; a decision EIA vehemently opposed.[14]

Global Environment[edit]

EIA was presented with two prestigious awards at the 20th anniversary meeting of the Montreal Protocol acknowledging the work done to expose and close down an illicit international trade in CFCs and other chemicals that damage the ozone layer. Having received the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Stratospheric Ozone Protection Award in 2006, EIA was presented the EPA's 'Best-of-the-Best' Stratospheric Ozone Protection Award, selected from more than 500 projects between 1990 and 2007. EIA received the award for "Leadership and Heroism in Preventing Illegal Trade."[18]

In 2007 the Parties to the Montreal Protocol agreed to a faster phase out of HCFC's (a common chemical refrigerant), not only because these chemicals damage the ozone layer, but because of their potent global warming potential. EIA is continuing this work by advising parties to the Kyoto Protocol and the Montreal Protocol to ensure the transition away from HCFC's is towards climate friendly natural refrigerant solutions and not hydrofluorocarbons or HFCs, the highly potent global warming, man-made chemicals that industry currently favours. EIA is extending their work to improve public awareness of the global warming impact of HFCs through their "Chilling Facts" [19] campaign which analyses and ranks UK supermarkets' efforts to move beyond HFCs and install natural refrigerant commercial refrigeration systems using carbon dioxide, hydrocarbons or ammonia.

For over a decade the Environmental Investigation Agency has been at the forefront of efforts to curb illegal trade in ozone-depleting chemicals.[20] Having achieved considerable success, EIA now seeks to apply its experience to other categories of controlled chemicals, which are harmful to the environment, principally hazardous waste and pesticides. This project will conduct scoping research into the illicit trade in controlled chemicals and, using this information, prepare for a series of investigations. This work proposes to raise awareness and understanding of the issues at a governmental and institutional level, with an eventual aim to achieve improved enforcement of international conventions regulating trade in harmful chemicals and foster cross-border cooperation.

Animal Detectives TV Series[edit]

In 1995, Independent Television Network (ITV) broadcast a TV series called The Animal Detectives in the UK. The series commissioned by Carlton Television was produced by Goldhawk together with Ecodetectives, a company owned by directors of EIA. The series, based on EIA's undercover investigation work into the trade in endangered species, showed footage from EIA's undercover filming. The series had seven episodes, each covering a different group of animals-

Episodes BEARS (01/06/1995) WHALES (25/05/1995) PARROTS (18/05/1995) WALRUS (11/05/1995) RHINOS (04/05/1995) TURTLES (30/03/1995) MONKEYS (23/02/1995)[21]

The series won the Media Natura award for best film, the Brigitte Bardot International Genesis Award (Los Angeles), and the Gold Plaque at the Chicago Documentary Film Festival.[22]


  • "EIA's track record of investigative work, scientific documentation, and representation at international conventions has earned EIA a reputation for highly effective and successful campaigning. EIA continues to share these skills with local groups and government officials to help empower them in the fight against environmental crime."

- The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency 2007[23]

  • "EIA is a highly-respected, hard-hitting, dirt-digging organisation".

- BBC Wildlife Magazine[24]

  • "The reason for their success is not just the information gathered, it is the way they use it as a political lobbying tool. One of Britain's most effective conservation groups."

- BBC Wildlife Magazine[25]

  • "I am proud to support EIA. Thanks to their brave and pioneering methods of undercover work to expose crimes against wildlife and the environment, they have made a great difference to the world in which we all live"

- Sting[citation needed]

  • "EIA performs an extremely important role in investigating various abuses of the natural world. I believe it deserves support from anyone concerned about the future of the living world."

- Sir Peter Scott[citation needed]


  1. ^ "Green Gumshoes", Sunday Times Mag, 17/6/1990
  2. ^ Welcome to EIA
  3. ^ Environmental Crime
  4. ^ U.S. Still Importing Illegal Timber Inter Press Service, Tuesday, April 10, 2012 (posted by Global Issues
  5. ^ Borderlines
  6. ^ Forests for the World
  7. ^ People of the Forest
  8. ^ CITES
  9. ^ Tiger Briefings
  10. ^ Tigers
  11. ^ Cetaceans - Japan
  12. ^ We Don't Buy It
  13. ^ "To Save An Elephant" by Allan Thornton & Dave Currey, Doubleday 1991 ISBN 0-385-40111-6
  14. ^ a b Return of the Ivory Trade, Independent Newspaper 12 July 2008 http://www.independent.co.uk/environment/nature/return-of-the-ivory-trade-865797.html
  15. ^ Schweitzer Medalists
  16. ^ "Zimbabwe smugglers kill another officer" New african Nov 1991
  17. ^ New Scientist, 26 Aug 1989
  18. ^ Best of the Best
  19. ^ "Chilling Facts"
  20. ^ Global Environment Campaign
  21. ^ British Film Institute
  22. ^ http://www.goldhawkmedia.co.uk/?page=programmes Goldhawk Media
  23. ^ EPA Quote
  24. ^ BBC Quote 1
  25. ^ BBC Quote 2

External links[edit]