Wildlife trafficking has always been an issue, but over the last few decades, it’s escalated to an international crisis. Both governments and nongovernmental organizations around the world are starting to place increased focus on the prevention of wildlife trafficking.
Why all the fuss? Wildlife trafficking harms endangered species and is a potential threat to global security. When we bring animals into a different environment, it’s impossible to predict the outcome. Consider the case of the European starling in the United States. This bird didn’t have a presence in the U.S. until 1890, when a few breeding pairs were introduced to New York’s Central Park. Today, you’ll find starlings by the millions in every corner of the country. These birds found few natural predators in the U.S. and forced many native species to the brink of extinction. Every year, European starlings cause hundreds of million dollars in damage to agricultural concerns.
The Department of Justice is committed to illegal wildlife trade prevention. This agency works with international partners to stop this trade.
What’s Driving Wildlife Trafficking?
Wildlife trafficking is big business. According to the World Economic Forum, this illegal industry is worth about $23 billion worldwide.
Some wild animals are imported because people want exotic pets. While having a pet tiger or alligator may sound like a good idea for a James Bond villain, it rarely works out well.
Some traditional medicines depend on animal ingredients. However, most of these treatments have never been proven effective by any scientific study.
Sometimes, wild animals are imported for food. Everyone’s heard of shark fin soup, for example. Fishermen routinely kill sharks to harvest their fins and satisfy the demand for this dish. The saddest part is that the sharks’ fins add very little to this soup, which is usually made of chicken broth.
Fortunately, it’s not just governments that have the power to curtail wildlife trafficking. The International Federation of Freight Forwarders Associations (FIATA) has teamed up with TRAFFIC, a wildlife trade monitoring organization, to develop freight forwarders’ strategy for combating wildlife trafficking. Together, they’re offering freight forwarders a free course on wildlife trafficking prevention to educate shipping professionals about protecting themselves from accidentally smuggling wildlife and reporting identified crimes. Members of the shipping industry are uniquely positioned to spot, report, and ultimately end wildlife trafficking.