Following a targeting of the Criminal Justice Bill, which is progressing through Parliament, the charity now understands that the Government is set to include an amendment backing its campaign.
Currently at the standing committee stage the charity understands the amendment will be added by the Government at the report stage, which starts next month.
This follows on from a spate of recent lobbying successes by WWF and wildlife trade campaigners TRAFFIC on the issue. Last month DEFRA sent out a consultation document proposing tougher penalties and last year 344 MPs signed an early day motion also backing stiffer sentencing.
WWF head of advocacy Anita Neville said: 'This is a major achievement. We will have fulfilled one of our key aims, to have proper penalties in place.'
Under current legislation the import and export of illegal animals carries a two-year maximum sentence. The Government's amendment is set to back WWF calls to increase this to five years and make it, for the first time, an arrestable offence to trade in illegal wildlife within the UK.
Neville was appointed to her current role last month following a re-organisation of the charity's comms function. Previously head of press and campaigns she now heads a newly created advocacy comms team that includes PA, media and campaigns.
Reporting to Neville are PA manager Carole Auchterlonie and campaigns manager Stuart Singleton-White.
Also reporting to Neville is David Cowdrey, who has been promoted from the former press and campaigns team to media manager after taking the lead in the illegal wildlife campaign.
The WWF has also announced the appointment of Siren PR to promote its annual fundraising event the Big Swim, following a pitch last year.