Environmental Investigation Agency

The Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA) is an international NGO with offices in London and Washington D.C. It was founded in 1984 by Dave Currey, Jennifer Lonsdale and Allan Thornton, three environmental activists in the United Kingdom.[1]

EIA investigates and campaigns against environmental crime and abuse.

Its undercover investigations expose transnational wildlife crime, with a focus on elephants and tigers, and forest crimes such as illegal logging and deforestation for cash crops such as palm oil. It works to safeguard global marine ecosystems by addressing the threats posed by plastic pollution, bycatch and commercial exploitation of whales, dolphins and porpoises. Finally, it seeks to reduce the impact of climate change by campaigning to eliminate powerful refrigerant greenhouse gases, exposing related illicit trade and improving energy efficiency in the cooling sector.

EIA uses its findings in hard-hitting reports to campaign for new legislation, improved governance and more effective enforcement. In addition, its field experience is used to provide guidance to enforcement agencies and it also forms partnerships with local groups and activists, support their work through hands-on training.[2]

Areas of work


EIA's Climate work aims to tackle the pressing threat of climate change by eliminating powerful greenhouse gases used widely in the cooling sector, improving energy efficiency of replacement technologies and investigating the illicit trade in refrigerant greenhouse gases.[3]

Key campaign areas include:

  • The Montreal Protocol: Agreed in 1987 with a pressing mission to regulate the chemicals directly destroying Earth’s ozone layer and celebrated as the world’s most successful environmental treaty. EIA was instrumental in proposing and then making the case that the Protocol, which so ably removed chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs), was the best mechanism by which to phase out the harmful hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) which have come to replace CFCs. This work resulted in the Kigali Amendment on HFCs.[4]
  • EU F-Gas Regulation: Fluorinated gases, or F-gases, are a range of greenhouse gases widely used in refrigeration and air-conditioning, most notably HFCs. They are governed in the European Union by the F-Gas Regulation, a mechanism seeking to phase them out in favour of climate-friendly refrigerants. EIA campaigned extensively against industry lobbying to ensure a robust and ambitious revision of the Regulation and continues to work for its effective implementation.[5]
  • Energy efficiency: Rising global temperatures and growing income levels in the developing world are driving a boom in demand for cooling which is highly energy intensive and has a significant negative impact on climate. EIA campaigns to ensure cooling systems are not only HFC-free, but are as efficient as possible.[6]
  • Cooling technologies: The phase-out of hydrochlorofluorocarbons (HCFCs) in developing countries and the HFC phase-down in developed countries offers opportunities to adopt energy efficient climate-friendly alternatives. EIA campaigns to spread awareness of these alternatives and their multiple benefits, giving end users the choices they need to make informed decisions.[7] In partnership with Greenpeace, EIA has created the Cool Technologies website.


EIA's Forests work aims to reduce global deforestation by advocating improved governance and trade laws, revealing the negative impacts of cash crops such as palm oil and exposing key criminal players in the transnational illegal trade in stolen timber.[8]

Key campaign areas include:

  • Timber: Deforestation in Asia through illegal logging and forest conversion to cash-crop plantations is a major crisis, overseen by large international companies or transnational criminal gangs. Working with partners and civil society on the ground, EIA's investigations expose the criminals, the illegal timber flows and the corruption which facilitates forest crime, using international laws to press for action and further reduce the scale of deforestation.[9]
  • Palm oil: Palm oil is a vegetable oil found in literally thousands of products ranging from soaps and cosmetics to countless foodstuffs including chocolates, cereals, dairy products and crisps. Its popularity is due to its comparatively low cost to produce and ready availability – but palm oil production is widely linked to deforestation, illegal logging, human rights abuses and biodiversity loss.[10]
  • Rights: Illegal logging and destructive forest conversion are directly connected to corruption and crime, cronyism, curbs on transparency and accountability, selective law enforcement, elitist land tenure and compromised judiciaries, and often involve state officials and security apparatus. Limited civil society participation exacerbates these problems. EIA’s groundbreaking forest investigations and lobbying have consistently uncovered serious failings in forest governance, forcing governments and industry to acknowledge the problems and address them.[11]


EIA's Ocean work aims to improve the status of marine wildlife and ecosystems by reducing threats posed by marine plastic pollution, bycatch and commercial exploitation of whales, dolphins and porpoises.[12]

Key campaign areas include:

  • Plastic pollution: Marine plastic pollution is one of the most serious emerging threats to the health of oceans and a major hazard to marine biodiversity. EIA has worked on the issue at the UK level and internationally, campaigning both alone and in partnerships against single-use plastics such as supermarket carrier bags, microbeads in rinse-off products and other forms of damaging plastic packaging.[13]
  • Vaquita and totoaba: Fewer than 30 vaquita porpoises are believed to be left on the planet, making it the world’s most endangered marine mammal – its extinction is imminent unless significant steps are taken to protect it. The vaquita is not hunted in its own right but is dying in illegal gill nets set for the totoaba fish, an endangered species whose dried swim bladder is prized in China.[14]
  • Whales, dolphins and porpoises: The international moratorium on commercial whaling is one of the greatest conservation successes of the 20th century but some countries have defied it to continue the practice. EIA campaigns to keep the ban in place, to expose the exploitation of those species it does not cover and to drive action to address other threats to whales, dolphins and porpoises such plastic, chemical and noise pollution as well as industrial-scale fishing.[15]


EIA's Wildlife work aims to reduce wildlife crime around the world, advocating the dismantling of transnational criminal networks involved in illegal trade, pressing for better legislation and the closure of key markets, advocating improved enforcement techniques and exposing transnational organised criminal networks.[16]

Key campaign areas include:

  • Elephants: Ivory trade is the main culprit responsible for the catastrophic levels of elephant poaching. For many years, EIA's investigations have consistently revealed the extent of the problem, identifying the transnational criminal groups behind the trafficking of illegal ivory and the corruption they help drive, and have played a major role on shutting down ivory trade. It also continues to work for the closure of all domestic and international ivory markets.[17]
  • Tigers: EIA works for the recovery of wild tiger populations by advocating the dismantling of transnational criminal networks involved in illegal trade, such as the production of tiger bone wine pressing for better legislation and the protection of their habitat and exposing the role of tiger farming in both illegal and legal trade.[18]
  • Wildlife trade maps: EIA has created a series of interactive maps documenting the illegal trade in certain wildlife species as an open resource to learn more about wildlife crime.[19]

Animal Detectives TV Series

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)[20]

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.[21]


  • "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 US Environmental Protection Agency 2007[22]
  • "EIA is a highly-respected, hard-hitting, dirt-digging organisation" - BBC Wildlife Magazine[23]
  • "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[24]
  • "The UK-based Environmental Investigation Agency NGO stands out as a model of an NGO that gets real substantive and useful work done on these issues on a limited budget” – Campaign Against Canned Hunting[25]
  • “World-renowned, they have played large roles in the protection of endangered species and uncovering illegal operations of animal trade. They are effectively the A-Team of the environment. Only with less explosions. And more rhinos.” - Ecolitical[26]
  • “Despite its impressive name, the Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA) is not a government agency but a small nonprofit that has become one of the world’s most effective conservation groups.” - Sunny Lewis, Maximpact Ecosystems[27]
  • “For a tiny charity, it packs an almighty punch” – The Guardian[28]
  • “The EIA has been at the forefront of investigative campaigning for over 25 years” – The Ecologist[29]
  • "Who are the EIA? The organisation are kind of like the FBI of environmental crime. For three decades, they have been documenting and analysing environmental crimes and abuses in the hopes of convincing governments to put laws and policies in place that protect species threatened by wildlife crime. They do a lot of undercover work, weeding out the worst of the world's wildlife criminals." – Earth Touch[30]


  1. "Green Gumshoes", Sunday Times Mag, 17/6/1990
  2. "About us – EIA International". EIA International. Retrieved 2018-05-01.
  3. "Climate – EIA International". EIA International. Retrieved 2018-05-18.
  4. "The Montreal Protocol – EIA International". EIA International. Retrieved 2018-05-18.
  5. "EU F-Gas Regulation – EIA International". EIA International. Retrieved 2018-05-18.
  6. "Energy efficiency – EIA International". EIA International. Retrieved 2018-05-18.
  7. "Cooling technologies – EIA International". EIA International. Retrieved 2018-05-18.
  8. "Forests – EIA International". EIA International. Retrieved 2018-05-18.
  9. "Timber – EIA International". EIA International. Retrieved 2018-05-18.
  10. "Palm oil – EIA International". EIA International. Retrieved 2018-05-18.
  11. "Rights – EIA International". EIA International. Retrieved 2018-05-18.
  12. "Ocean – EIA International". EIA International. Retrieved 2018-05-18.
  13. "Plastic pollution – EIA International". EIA International. Retrieved 2018-05-18.
  14. "Vaquita and totoaba – EIA International". EIA International. Retrieved 2018-05-18.
  15. "Whales, dolphins and porpoises – EIA International". EIA International. Retrieved 2018-05-18.
  16. "Wildlife – EIA International". EIA International. Retrieved 2018-05-18.
  17. "Elephants – EIA International". EIA International. Retrieved 2018-05-18.
  18. "Tigers – EIA International". EIA International. Retrieved 2018-05-18.
  19. "Trade Maps – EIA International". EIA International. Retrieved 2018-05-18.
  20. "British Film Institute". Archived from the original on 2012-10-10. Retrieved 2008-08-17.
  21. http://www.goldhawkmedia.co.uk/?page=programmes Archived 2008-04-23 at the Wayback Machine Goldhawk Media
  22. EPA Quote
  23. "BBC Quote 1" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 2008-05-16. Retrieved 2008-06-05.
  24. "BBC Quote 2". Archived from the original on 2008-05-09. Retrieved 2008-06-05.
  25. "EU Wildlife Trafficking Input". Campaign Against Canned Hunting (CACH). Retrieved 2018-05-18.
  26. "An Evening with the EIA". 2016-10-04. Retrieved 2018-05-18.
  27. "Undercover Detectives Battle Eco-Crime - Maximpact Blog". Maximpact Blog. 2016-12-07. Retrieved 2018-05-18.
  28. Gordon, Olivia (2008-09-09). "Environmental Investigation Agency regularly fights against global environmental crimes". the Guardian. Retrieved 2018-05-18.
  29. "Environmental Investigation Agency: meet the original eco spooks". The Ecologist. Retrieved 2018-05-18.
  30. "Could This New Report From the EIA Help End Wildlife Crime?". Earth Touch News Network. Retrieved 2018-05-18.
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