Illicit trafficking in wildlife, wildlife parts and products is big business, with conservative estimates placing it at $8 to $10 billion a year. Conducted by sophisticated transnational organized crime syndicates and in some cases militant groups, it poses an increasingly serious threat to regional security and stability, and undermines decades of conservation efforts, the rule of law, and the sustainable livelihoods of communities.
Given that the United States is one of the largest demand markets for illegal wildlife products, and, in some instances, a transit country for such products to Asia, the United States Government has just released an implementation plan for galvanizing action in support of the U.S. National Strategy for Combating Wildlife Trafficking.
The implementation plan is to build upon the National strategy’s three main objectives –strengthening enforcement both domestically and globally; reducing demand for illegally traded wildlife, and increasing international cooperation.
One of the major issues when dealing with wildlife trafficking on a global scale is that most countries have yet to treat wildlife crime as a serious crime, develop and enforce strong criminal laws and stiff penalties against trafficking in wildlife. Nor do countries possess adequate enforcement capacity to investigate and enforce such laws, nor a robust judicial system to successfully fight the corruption and illicit flow of money associated with wildlife crime. So, the United States government will support partner countries in building their law enforcement and criminal justice capacities.
We are also aggressively working to reduce demand for illegally traded wildlife by raising public awareness and the impact from wildlife trafficking, both in the United States and abroad.
We will work to catalyze political will and mobilize support globally for these goals to encourage strong participation from our partners in the fight against wildlife trafficking. We will work to strengthen the implementation of international agreements that protect wildlife, and cooperate with our partners to develop and implement innovative and effective approaches to stemming wildlife crime.
“The entire world has a stake in protecting the world’s iconic animals,” wrote President Barack Obama last February, in his introduction to the National Strategy for Combatting Wildlife Trafficking. “And the United States is strongly committed to meeting its obligation to help preserve the Earth’s natural beauty for future generations.”