The term ecocide designates a deliberate, large-scale destruction of the natural environment. It is a criminal activity that attracts a growing number of criminal organizations (a.k.a "eco-mafias") because it generates profits in billions, while presenting a negligible penal risk. Nearly 34,000 major environmental crimes were detected worldwide in 2011.

In 2014, Le Monde sent off five of its reporters, along with a legal expert and photographers, to investigate five criminal networks of these new mafias with an original and participative approach.

The investigations focus on:

  • the clandestine road followed by e-waste from France to China through Belgium and Vietnam;
  • wood contraband in Madagascar, the trail of which leads to China OR (according to Le Monde inside sources) wood contraband in the DRC, the trail of which leads to Europe;
  • the illegal exploitation of mines in India which imperils the populations of many villages in the country;
  • counterfeit or banned pesticides, generally manufactured in China, which enter Europe (mainly Austria) after transiting through African or Middle Eastern countries;
  • the illicit and large scale trade of the grey parrots of Gabon that are imported in Europe and in the US under false certificates OR (according to Le Monde inside sources) the illegal trade of rhino horns, from South Africa to Vietnam.

The material from this cross-media project is also used by legal experts to publish a "white paper" on ecocide and the legal loopholes in French and European legislations, in order to incite countries and organizations to recognise this crime more widely. Interpol has agreed to help the investigation with unique inside data.

Project links


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Project information

  • Locations
    Vietnam, China, India, Madagascar, Gabon, Democratic Republic of the Congo
  • Duration
    7 months
  • Release date
    January 2015
  • Budget
    € 20000
  • Round