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U.S. Department of State

Diplomacy in Action

Wildlife Trafficking

Wildlife trafficking is a multi-billion-dollar transnational criminal activity that is both a critical conservation issue and an acute security threat. Conservative estimates place it among the top-ranked illicit types of trade. Wildlife trafficking undermines conservation efforts, fuels corruption, threatens the rule of law, and destabilizes communities that depend on wildlife for biodiversity and eco-tourism revenues.

Poaching and the illegal trade in wildlife – both of which are part of wildlife trafficking – continue to push some protected and endangered species to the brink of extinction. Wildlife trafficking is fueled by unchecked demand for exotic pets, delicacies, and “traditional” medicines. The capture and/or slaughter of such animals to meet an insatiable demand are devastating wild populations of tigers, elephants, rhinoceroses, pangolins, turtles, exotic birds, and many other species. Wildlife trafficking also poses public health risks. Approximately 75% of emerging infectious diseases in humans – such as Ebola, HIV/AIDS, and severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) – originated in animals. The illegal trade in animal parts and products -- especially live animals -- bypasses public health controls and increases the risk of infectious diseases for humans, domestic livestock and wild animals.

U.S. agencies across the government are taking action to confront the growing threats to wildlife from poaching and illegal trade. The State Department is one of three Co-Chairs of the President’s Task Force on Wildlife Trafficking, which comprises 17 federal agencies and offices. The Task Force released a National Strategy for Combating Wildlife Trafficking in February 2014, followed by an Implementation Plan for the Strategy in 2015. The Strategy and Implementation Plan identify three main objectives – strengthening domestic and global law enforcement, reducing demand for illegally traded wildlife, and building international cooperation. The State Department is leading many of the Implementation Plan’s efforts, and engages global stakeholders in range, transit, and destination markets through international fora and U.S. embassies overseas.

Since 2005, the United States has worked with partner governments, key international organizations and conventions, and a broad range of NGO partners to help establish Wildlife Enforcement Networks (WENs), which are agreements among governments to coordinate and collaborate the efforts of wildlife authorities, law enforcement, and customs and border officials to fight wildlife trafficking. Current WENs include those in Southeast Asia, South Asia, and Central America, with others being developed throughout Africa and the Americas. The State Department also supports global capacity-building efforts to strengthen legislative frameworks, enhance investigative and law enforcement functions, build prosecutorial and judicial capacities to adjudicate wildlife crime and related corruption, and develop cross-border law enforcement cooperation

The Department promotes global demand reduction efforts, working collaboratively with foreign governments, civil society, and private industry to raise awareness about wildlife trafficking and reduce demand for illegal wildlife products. For example, in 2015, U.S. Embassy Hanoi organized the multi-stakeholder Operation Game Change to reduce demand for rhino horn in Vietnam.

The State Department also uses diplomacy to catalyze political will, strengthening commitments to combat wildlife trafficking in bilateral and multilateral fora. The U.S. and China have one such important bilateral dialogue; see the fact sheet from Chinese President Xi’s meeting with President Obama in 2015. At the U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit in 2014, a “Dialogue on Combating Wildlife Trafficking” welcomed African Heads of State, Foreign Ministers, and Environment Ministers to candidly discuss the challenges and opportunities African nations face in addressing this serious threat to their people’s livelihoods.

At the multilateral level, the Department has contributed to worldwide calls for action to combat wildlife trafficking from, among others, the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum (APEC), the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) and its East Asia Summit, the G-7, the African Union, and the United Nations, including the Economic and Social Council and the UN Commission on Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice (CCPCJ). The State Department also works to ensure the effective implementation and enforcement of international agreements like the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) and the UN Convention against Transnational Organized Crime (UNTOC).

-06/24/15  United States and China Highlight Cooperation on Combating Wildlife Trafficking at the 7th U.S.-China Strategic & Economic Dialogue; Office of the Spokesperson; Washington, DC
-02/11/15  National Strategy for Combating Wildlife Trafficking: Implementation Plan; Bureau of Oceans and International Environmental and Scientific Affairs; Washington, DC
-02/11/15   National Strategy for Combating Wildlife Trafficking: Implementation Plan Fact Sheet
-08/04/14   U.S. Support for Combating Wildlife Trafficking
-05/06/14  Secretary Kerry Meets With Anti-Poaching and Anti-Wildlife Trafficking International Visitor Leadership Program Participants; Office of the Spokesperson; Washington, DC
-04/22/14  INL Assistant Secretary Brownfield To Announce Support for Countering Wildlife Crime at Wildlife Criminology Symposium; Office of the Spokesperson; Washington, DC
-02/13/14  London Conference on Illegal Wildlife Trade; Office of the Spokesperson; Washington, DC
-02/06/14  Togolese Efforts to Combat Wildlife Trafficking;  Department Spokesperson Jen Psaki; Washington, DC
-01/06/14  China Destroys Illegal Wildlife Products;  Deputy Department Spokesperson Marie Harf, Office of the Spokesperson; Washington, DC
-11/15/13   Ivory Crush Event
-12/04/12  Remarks at the Wildlife Conservation Day Reception;  Under Secretary for Economic Growth, Energy, and the Environment Robert D. Hormats; Remarks as Prepared for Delivery; Beijing, China
-12/03/12  Video Remarks for Wildlife Conservation Day;  Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton; Washington, DC
-11/08/12  Remarks at the Partnership Meeting on Wildlife Trafficking;  Under Secretary for Economic Growth, Energy, and the Environment Robert D. Hormats; Benjamin Franklin Room; Washington, DC
-11/08/12  Remarks at the Partnership Meeting on Wildlife Trafficking;  Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton; Benjamin Franklin Room; Washington, DC
-11/08/12  U.S. Efforts to Combat Wildlife Trafficking and Promote Conservation; Office of the Spokesperson; Washington, DC
-11/08/12  United States Advances Antarctic Marine Protection Proposal; Office of the Spokesperson; Washington, DC


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