Illicit Trade of Wildlife in America

Past and Current International Action

Wildlife trafficking is an extremely lucrative organized crime, with the profits reaching numbers as high as 20 billion euros each year, and it is ever growing. The act of wildlife trafficking causes extreme damage to the environment; it has brought some species to the brink of extinction. It also has negative consequences for the economic development where it takes place, by incentivising corruption. The illicit ivory trade has been estimated as doubling in the years since 2007, and in South Africa, Rhino poaching increased 7000% in just six years (EU Action plan).

In the past, there have been many action plans taken against the illicit wildlife trade. The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species, (CITES) was enacted in 1975 and includes signatures from 183 countries across the world. The CITES treaty currently protects 5,000 species of animals and 28,000 species of plants (topic synopsis). Beyond this, countries have their own more specific laws battling animal trafficking. In the United States, there is a Presidential Task Force that has been set up, and they are using a national strategy to fight wildlife trafficking, and the U.

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S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Division of Management Authority and Division of Scientific Authority in addition to the Office of Law Enforcement enforce and regulate CITES in the U.S. (US FWS).

China has not placed the illicit wildlife trade as a priority, but they are nevertheless increasing their involvement into the issue through implementing stronger enforcement of their laws against it; they are collaborating with private African companies in order to provide their employees with education on the risks of illegally trafficking animals.

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In Africa, there is a law in place across the continent. The United Nations has put a lot of emphasis on this issue within the span of the last decade. In particular, the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime has made an international impact in increasing the global law enforcement effort against this crime. This has been most effective in places in Asia, Africa, and Latin America. In the European Union, they have started taking action against the trade already, by demonstrating more extreme policies concerning timber and fishery products (U.S FWS). More recently, the International Consortium on Combating Wildlife Crime (ICCWC) was created by CITES in collaboration with other organizations dedicated to fighting wildlife trade. The goal of the ICCWC is to prosecute poachers to a higher extent, as well as to increase the effectiveness of law enforcement in less developed countries.

Country Position

Luxembourg recognizes the vast problem that is wildlife trafficking, and is seeking to strengthen enforcement against it. In October of 2018, Luxembourg passed a law to increase the protection of endangered species of plants and animals, which outlaws the trade of raw ivory; this legislature is considered one of the most progressive concerning this subject (London Conference on the Illegal Wildlife Trade) This is so that they can better uphold the expectations for countries’ restrictions on the illicit wildlife trade laid out by CITES, which Luxembourg ratified in 1975. This new law promises stricter prison terms and fines for perpetrators of wildlife trafficking, and it acknowledges the positive impact that public awareness can have; it aims to increase the education that the population has of the wildlife trade. (Luxtimes, Auxenfants). In addition, Luxembourg took part in an operation created by INTERPOL, dubbed ‘Operation Thunderstorm’.

The objective was to seize and prevent ivory trafficking, the 92 countries that participated made a total of 1,974 seizures and identified over 1,400 suspects. The seizures included “43 tonnes of wild meat, 1.3 tonnes of raw and processed elephant ivory, 27,000 reptiles, 4,000 birds, several tonnes of timber, 48 live primates, 14 big cats The operation saw eight tonnes of pangolin scales seized worldwide” (INTERPOL). As well as participating in this operation, Luxembourg has very recently passed new legislation restricting and regulating the exotic pet trade, becoming the third country in the EU to do so. In 2018, several environmental administrations in Luxembourg addressed the EU and pressured them to increase the regulations on the ivory trade (Elephant Ivory Trading in the EU). In June, the Luxembourg government attended the Council of European Environment Ministers, and expressed their desire to pass an independent ban that will quickly end the ivory trade. To achieve this, they proposed a draft of a ban on the ivory trade at the European level, which has been taken into consideration by the EU.

Proposed Solutions

There are many aspects to finding a solution to the enormous problem of wildlife trafficking. It is necessary that the general population of people know that this problem exists, and the extent of its damage, which in the past has been done through social media campaigns. One campaign in particular which was started by UNEP was the #WildForLife campaign, which was successful in reaching over one billion people. Raising awareness on a global scale like this can help alert consumers to the issue that they are perpetuating, and because the wildlife trade is reliant on a large consumer base, lowering the demand for these products is an essential step. There must be more campaigns like #WildForLife, and they should be targeted towards all involved in the illicit wildlife trade; the consumer, poacher, and people involved with every step in between. Beyond the poachers, ‘runners’ transport the illegal goods to syndicates; who then avoid local and regional laws, bribe law enforcement, and creates the wildlife trafficking networks; and then sell the goods to the manufacturers, who created the worked product and then sell it to the consumer. The people who are actively committing these crimes need to face more severe consequences. Currently, there is a “lack of credibility in relation to law making, criminal investigation, prosecution and sentencing” which prevents effective law enforcement (WWF Report).

When coupled with the fact that trafficking wildlife is often undetected, it becomes a very attractive crime to people in need of money. There are several ways in which legislature against wildlife trafficking can be more heavily enforced. These include governments exerting better control over deliveries, consistently inspecting and controlling the borders of their countries, and convicting members of all steps of the wildlife trade. These steps can be done; they have proved effective in South Africa, which has shown impressive coordination in the National Wildlife Crime Reaction Unit; additionally, there has been effective law enforcement in China, within their National Inter Agency CITES Enforcement Collaboration Group, which includes over 100,000 officers. (WWF Report) However, governments need to collaborate with each other internationally in areas such as recognizing the different causes, aspects, and participants in the trade; taking these causes and working internationally to address and prevent them; and in addition, governments need to hold each other accountable for these init

‘The representatives of governments and international organizations interviewed for this study called for international organizations, governments and civil society to: • Take up their responsibility to collaborate more effectively in identifying the root causes of illicit wildlife trafficking right along the value chain, irrespective of national borders; • Design specific initiatives to undertake in response to those root causes; • Assign accountability for each initiative and monitor the implementation of the initiatives. Specifically, the need for cross-ministerial collaboration was mentioned as a critical step in defining possible strategies to address the problem. Guaranteed sufficient funding would also help to ensure the effectiveness of the initiatives. Guaranteed sufficient funding would also help to ensure the effectiveness of the initiatives. PAGE 28-31 OF THE WWF! We need to focus on the consumer and supplier of industries that contribute to the illicit wildlife trade.

Questions to Consider

What is the most common reason animals are poached? How can the consumers be addressed to stop feeding into the illicit trade of wildlife? Animals are most commonly poached by people who are in desperate need of money to feed their families and are impoverished due to nationwide unemployment. Adding on to this, poaching tends to greatly increase under inefficient governments, due to the underfunding of animal protection. Because poaching and wildlife trafficking is entirely dependent on demand and consumers, these things must be addressed. A method of doing this that has been proven effective is reaching the consumers through social media, through campaigns such as #WildForLife, which reached over one billion people worldwide. When people are educated on the dangers and devastating impact that the wildlife trade has, they are more likely to stop feeding into it, and thus the rate of this crime is lessened.

Works Cited


Cite this page

Illicit Trade of Wildlife in America. (2021, Dec 23). Retrieved from

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