AbstractThis study focuses on the role of corruption in facilitating the illegal wildlife trade. This research attempts to contribute to the literature by disentangling the existence, influence and nested nature of corruption within the illegal wildlife trade based on ethnographic fieldwork conducted in China, Morocco, Russia and Uganda. By utilizing Passas’ concepts of symbiotic and antithetical relationships as theoretical framework, we examine the presence of corruption within illegal wildlife trafficking. Our findings lend support for, and extend the framework with the concept of legal exploitation, while highlighting the unique nature of corrupt practices influenced by different socio-political and cultural settings. Symbiotic and antithetical relationships were revealed through qualitative fieldwork and provided in-depth knowledge behind the social world of wildlife trafficking.