Eliminate, Neutralize, and Disrupt Wildlife Trafficking Act of 2016
PL 114-231, Sec. 301(d)
2019 Strategic Review

Read the 2019 END Wildlife Trafficking Report.

The Eliminate, Neutralize, and Disrupt Wildlife Trafficking Act (P.L. 114-231) (the “END Act”) directs the Presidential Task Force on Wildlife Trafficking (“Task Force”) to submit an annual strategic review and assessment of its work that consists of the following:  a review and assessment of its implementation of the Act; evaluation of the role of governments of Focus Countries and Countries of Concern in combating wildlife trafficking (CWT); a description of Task Force priorities and objectives; an accounting of U.S. funding for CWT; and recommendations for improving U.S. and international efforts to prevent wildlife trafficking in the future.

Wildlife trafficking remains a serious transnational crime that threatens security, economic prosperity, the rule of law, long-standing conservation efforts, and human health.  President Trump, in Executive Order 13773, called for a comprehensive and decisive approach to dismantle organized crime syndicates, and specifically recognized the connection between wildlife trafficking and transnational organized criminal networks.

The Task Force, co-chaired by the Secretary of State, the Secretary of the Interior, and the Attorney General, brings together 17 Federal departments and agencies to implement the National Strategy for Combating Wildlife Trafficking (the “National Strategy”).  The USG’s three-pronged approach to CWT – strengthening law enforcement, reducing demand, and building international cooperation – deprives criminals of a key source of financing.

In FY 2018, the USG planned to spend approximately $122 million to combat wildlife trafficking worldwide.  This funding has been directed at the local, bilateral, regional, and multilateral levels.

The Task Force’s work to combat wildlife trafficking is making a difference on the ground – at home and worldwide.  Through the Task Force, efforts and activities are better coordinated across the USG:  efficiencies are being identified and exploited, redundancies eliminated, and resources used more strategically; international outreach continues to expand; and improved intelligence identified new areas of work.  Working in partnership with the private sector, local communities, and NGOs, the United States leads the way globally by securing agreements from governments and commitments from stakeholders to take action.

The Task Force’s member agencies enjoyed considerable success in all three strategic areas.  We expanded and strengthened our enforcement efforts, secured additional commitments to impose domestic ivory bans (in Hong Kong, Singapore, and the United Kingdom) thus reducing consumer access to such products, and working diplomatically, we increased awareness of the security and economic threats posed by wildlife trafficking and secured greater commitment from governments to combat wildlife trafficking worldwide.  Overall, Focus Countries responded positively to the initial 2017 Report and worked with U.S. missions to produce the assessments and strategic plans.

Coordination and communication among Task Force agencies occurs at all levels.  Weekly calls with the Department of State, the Department of Justice (DoJ), the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service (USFWS), and USAID ensure communication lines are always open and issues can be addressed quickly.  Monthly working group sessions, particularly on programs, ensure we are using U.S. resources strategically and effectively, avoiding duplication of effort, and identifying both gaps and coordination opportunities in USG efforts to combat wildlife trafficking.  Quarterly meetings of the Task Force agencies at the working level allow us to update progress, share lessons learned, and develop new lines of concerted effort.  The Task Force meets at the principal level annually, providing policy guidance and direction.  These processes are augmented by meetings with individual non-governmental and private-sector partners, as well as recurring meetings with our international partners at the bilateral and multilateral level.  This encourages and fosters new and expanding partnerships between and among agencies, effectively leveraging our whole-of-government approach.

Coordination among U.S. agencies in the field continues to deepen and expand.  U.S. embassies and USAID missions with substantial programs to address wildlife crime established CWT working groups involving resident federal agencies concerned with conservation, law enforcement, security, defense, and other relevant areas.  In collaboration with the Department of State, USFWS has law enforcement attachés posted to U.S. embassies in Botswana, Brazil, China, Gabon, Mexico, Peru, Tanzania, and Thailand, with new attachés coming to Vietnam, the U.S. Africa Command (USAFRICOM), Kenya, and the United Kingdom.  Similarly, DoJ worked with the Department to place a Resident Legal Advisor (RLA) in June 2018 at the U.S. Embassy in Vientiane, Laos, specifically dedicated to bolstering the capacity of governments in Southeast Asia to investigate and prosecute wildlife trafficking crimes.  This is the first RLA specifically focused on wildlife trafficking.  In addition, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) has 68 foreign offices in 50 countries that:  facilitate investigations of transnational criminal organizations (including those involved in wildlife trafficking); support U.S.-sponsored training and capacity-building initiatives; and assist foreign law enforcement investigations into wildlife trafficking.

The guiding priorities and objectives of the Task Force agencies derive from the National Strategy, as expressly recognized by the END Act, and from the END Act itself.  Those priorities and objectives are subject to further refinement in light of continuing progress and lessons learned from our ongoing efforts, as well as the country-specific assessments and strategic reviews required by section 301 of the END Act.  In the past year, Task Force agencies worked with U.S. embassies and host governments in Focus Countries to assess the threats posed by wildlife trafficking and the capacity of the respective host governments to address those threats.  Agencies also worked with U.S. embassies, in conjunction with relevant ministries and NGOs in Focus Countries, to prepare strategic plans to address wildlife trafficking in those countries.  We developed successful partnerships to combat wildlife trafficking with many in the international community, and the Task Force looks forward to productive engagement with stakeholders in the identified Focus Countries going forward.

Looking ahead, the Administration intends to prioritize disrupting and eliminating transnational criminal networks, including disrupting the financial resources generated by wildlife trafficking that flow to those criminal entities.  In addition, we are redoubling efforts to develop and incorporate innovative technologies to combat wildlife trafficking.  We are scaling up our collaboration with the private sector across the board, including by addressing online illegal trade and the role of the transport sector.  We are also identifying and leveraging the connections with other conservation crimes, such as illegal logging and associated trade, some IUU (illegal, unregulated, and unreported) fishing, illegal mercury use in artisanal and small‑scale gold mining, and the illegal extraction and trade in other minerals.

Much work remains.  We need to continue supporting the involvement of the Intelligence Community (IC) in our counter-trafficking efforts.  This is especially important given that wildlife trafficking is an integral component of the larger transnational organized crime threat and must be countered at that level.  IC involvement could accelerate and scale tailoring of a knowledge management framework by intelligence agencies for enhanced Task Force information sharing and law enforcement collaboration within the United States and with partner countries.  We remain mindful of the ongoing need to evaluate the effectiveness of the steps we are taking to combat wildlife trafficking, both at the project level and more broadly, and to develop, as and where practicable and useful, metrics to guide that process.  The Task Force established indicators, as recommended by the Government Accountability Office, which will help assess our progress around the world.  The Task Force is working with the U.S. missions in the 28 Focus Countries designated by the END Act to incorporate these indicators into country strategies, establish baselines, and set targets.

The Task Force is addressing the gap in available information on the illegal trade in protected marine species as well as the gap in information related to Latin America by facilitating and improving data collection.  With respect to Latin America, we are launching several programs to focus specifically on the illegal trade in this region and trading routes between Latin American and Asia.  As for protected marine species, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Office of Law Enforcement (NOAA OLE), in collaboration with USFWS, will support analyses of information arising from the wildlife trafficking assessments and strategic plans for each of the Focus Countries identified in the END Act Report to Congress.  These analyses will be based on the data that are provided by each Focus Country and supplemented with other available data, including relevant enforcement information from NOAA and USFWS.  The intent of these assessments is to enhance our shared understanding of the trafficking of protected marine species in Focus Countries as well as to consider coordinated approaches to combat that trafficking.  In addition, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s National Marine Fisheries Service (NOAA Fisheries) is providing support and technical expertise for work in Indonesia and the Philippines to help law enforcement authorities with the process of sampling interdicted sea turtles and assisting local researchers with genetic analyses.  Such work is crucial in better understanding the connectivity between sea turtles illegally trafficked in the region and the effects on critically endangered U.S. sea turtle populations.

During 2018, Focus Country missions completed individual comprehensive assessments of their host country’s capacity to address wildlife trafficking.  Analysis of the assessments found that most missions identified corruption and high demand for wildlife and wildlife products as primary drivers of wildlife trafficking, but with relevant regional differences.  For instance, Asian missions also identified limited resources for adequate law enforcement as a key driver, while African missions indicated the lack of livelihood alternatives as a significant motivator.  A large majority of missions stated that wildlife trafficking was known or suspected to converge with other serious crimes, the most common being drug smuggling.  Numerous challenges still impede effective law enforcement, including poor coordination among agencies, limited human capital and financial resources, and uneven distribution of detection technology at ports-of-entry.  National and international diplomatic pressure was mentioned as effective in elevating wildlife trafficking as a priority in Focus Countries.  The assessment results provide both valuable baseline data on Focus Countries’ current capacity and challenges to combat wildlife trafficking as well as a platform from which to gauge progress.

Strengthening Enforcement

Task Force agencies employ domestic laws and regulations to combat wildlife trafficking, including the prosecution of wildlife traffickers for crimes that cross international boundaries and are tied to transnational criminal organizations.  Prosecution of traffickers in U.S. courts is one of the most effective of the Task Force agencies’ enforcement activities.  Domestic prosecution of wildlife trafficking requires close collaboration, as the DoJ prosecutes cases investigated by its partner agencies such as USFWS, NOAA, Coast Guard, and HSI.  In early 2018, DoJ’s Environment and Natural Resources Division (ENRD) issued a memorandum concerning principles and priorities governing environmental law enforcement that expressly supports interagency law enforcement work in CWT, most especially cases with a connection to violent or organized crime.  While many cases involve individuals trafficking in illegal wildlife and wildlife parts, ENRD is also seeing the involvement of criminal organizations, including transnational criminal organizations that may threaten the security interests of the United States and its allies.

The prosecutors in ENRD’s Environmental Crimes Section work closely with U.S. Attorney’s Offices around the country and ENRD’s partner agencies to prosecute wildlife trafficking cases in federal courts.  DoJ routinely seeks punishment that includes significant periods of incarceration, fines, and restitution or community service to help mitigate harm caused by the offense, forfeiture of the wildlife and instrumentalities used to commit the offense, and disgorgement of the proceeds of illegal trafficking.  Significant prosecutions over the past year emerged from Operation Crash (a multi-year, multi-agency effort targeting rhinoceros horn and ivory trafficking), Operation Broken Glass (a multi-jurisdictional effort targeting American eels), and other related actions.

Of course, enforcement of U.S. law by U.S. agencies must be complemented by effective enforcement abroad.  Multiple Task Force agencies conducted extensive international capacity-building programs, training more than 5,000 people in more than 40 countries, to improve our international law enforcement partners’ ability to fight wildlife crime.  Effectively combating wildlife trafficking also requires countries to have robust legal frameworks, coupled with enforcement, investigative, prosecutorial, and judicial capacity to disrupt trafficking networks and bring criminals to justice.  Examples of these efforts are detailed in this report.

In partnership with local NGOs, the Department of State supports improving capabilities to detect, investigate, prosecute, and adjudicate cases of wildlife trafficking and related facilitative crimes.  The Department’s INL Bureau funded Lilongwe Wildlife Trust (LWT) to launch Malawi’s first wildlife detection dog unit; the unit’s work very quickly led to the arrest of eight traffickers for illegal possession of wildlife products.  LWT also provided training on investigative skills to the police who worked on the case and trained court monitors who helped alert officials to an expedited bail hearing; with that advance warning, officials were able to convince the court to deny bail for the traffickers.  In partnership with INL, USFWS Office of Law Enforcement (USFWS OLE) established the first dedicated CWT Vetted Unit in Libreville, Gabon.  The CWT unit is modeled after other USG Vetted Units that have been established around the world to tackle other threat areas.  When trained, these units can work seamlessly with U.S. law enforcement, tracking and investigating highly complex crimes associated with wildlife trafficking in Africa.  By placing the unit in Gabon, INL and USFWS hope to gain further insights and conduct in-depth advanced investigations into wildlife trafficking in West and Central Africa.  The USFWS OLE also partnered with DOJ and two NGOs to form the first Wildlife Crime Unit in Uganda, which consists of various components of the Ugandan government and is dedicated to fighting wildlife trafficking in Uganda and throughout the region.  Additionally, under other grants from INL, governments in the Southeast Asia region will soon receive their first wildlife detection dogs to combat wildlife trafficking.

INL also funds the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) to scale up enforcement capacity and cooperation to combat wildlife trafficking networks in South Asia, Southeast Asia, and Latin America.  Through these grants, WCS works to enhance the capacity of law enforcement and improve cross-border investigations.  The most recent results of these grants include the arrest in Indonesia of five rhino horn dealers, including corrupt military officers, the seizure of 40 kilograms of wildlife products in Vietnam, and the seizure of over 1,000 live wild animals and more than 26 tons of shark fins in Peru.  INL, in partnership with two NGOs, Panthera and Rimba, organized a wildlife crime training, which directly led to the milestone conviction of two Vietnamese poachers who pled guilty in Malaysia to 20 counts of illegal use of snares and possession of skins, claws, and fangs.  The perpetrators incurred a two-year prison sentence and a 1.56 million ringgit ($372,000) fine – the first time in history that a wildlife crime fine exceeded 1 million ringgit ($237,000).  The perpetrators also face an additional 16 years in prison if they fail to pay their fines.

The Department continues to support eco-guards and conservation law enforcement by providing critical equipment and communications systems to protected areas in Africa and Asia.  Two such grantees are African Parks and WCS.  African Parks is training and equipping wildlife rangers across African Parks’ managed areas and supplementing the national wildlife services with rangers to deter poaching of key species and reduce trafficking of these species in local, national, and international trade.  WCS is producing site-specific interventions that provide required goods, services, and knowledge in support of eight critical sites across Africa and Asia where important wildlife populations are threatened by the illegal wildlife trade.

After an arrest is made, prosecutors need training and skills to adequately apply domestic law to bring perpetrators of wildlife crime to justice.  The Department of State in conjunction with Lawyers Without Borders and with the assistance of DoJ, is also conducting a mock trial competition for prosecutors and judges associated with wildlife crime.  This training competition helps attorneys hone their skills at prosecuting not just the wildlife crime itself but also the associated facilitating crimes such as corruption and money laundering.

The Secretary of the Interior made it a priority of the DoI to strengthen the USFWS Attaché program by opening five new offices in strategic locations around the world that will add to the current attachés in Beijing, Bangkok, Dar es Salaam, Pretoria, Libreville, Mexico City, and Lima.  The five additional Attachés will be in Hanoi, Nairobi, Brasilia, Stuttgart (USAFRICOM), and London.  Wildlife Law Enforcement Attachés provide investigative support for wildlife trafficking investigations in their host country/region, provide access to USFWS resources such as the National Fish and Wildlife Forensic Lab and the Digital Evidence Recovery and Technical Surveillance Unit, assist in leveraging USG assets to CWT in the region, and provide expertise in capacity building for wildlife law enforcement authorities.

The USFWS OLE initiated and led numerous intelligence-driven enforcement operations during this past year.  The Attaché in Dar es Salaam spearheaded a multi-year collaborative international investigation targeting major wildlife traffickers operating between Tanzania, Kenya, Uganda, Senegal, Mozambique, and numerous countries in Asia with several targets associated with the investigation having direct ties to the United States.  Most recently, the Attaché worked closely with U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) Agents in Africa and the United States to proactively target members of this organization, which resulted in undercover purchases of rhino horn, ivory, and heroin.  In cooperation with the U.S. Attorney’s Office in the Southern District of New York, a multi-count felony indictment was handed down in May 2019, for conspiracy to violate the Lacey Act, money laundering, and narcotics violations.  This investigation and its resultant arrests marked a significant change in the way USFWS OLE works to disrupt and dismantle the most serious and significant criminal networks by proactively pursuing the entire network and utilizing the U.S. judicial system, foreign and domestic law enforcement partners, private sector banks, shipping companies, and NGOs to bring the perpetrators to justice.

Based on work begun in 2018, on 13 June, the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York, together with the USFWS and the DEA, announced indictments against four individuals accused of large-scale wildlife trafficking.  The individuals were charged with conspiracy to traffic rhino horns and elephant ivory (with some of the individuals involved in money laundering and heroin distribution).  Starting in March 2018, the National Targeting Center (NTC) conducted network, social media and call chaining analysis on the group, which provided additional avenues of investigation and aided in the indictments.  Additionally, NTC provided travel information that supported the arrest of one of the large-scale traffickers at a border checkpoint in Uganda.  He is now awaiting trial in the United States.

Through the Intelligence Unit (IU), USFWS OLE investigators have access to an expanding array of law enforcement tools and resources that assist their efforts to identify and disrupt wildlife trafficking networks.  The IU also coordinates information sharing with other law enforcement agencies in the United States and other countries.  Additionally, the IU maintains and is expanding a broad network of domestic and international contacts with conservation groups, trade associations, academia, philanthropic organizations, and other entities concerned with the illegal wildlife trade.  In 2018, the IU hired five contractor employees with extensive experience in international criminal investigations, financial crimes, and interacting with the IC.

USFWS supported a variety of efforts to combat wildlife trafficking in the Western Hemisphere.  To highlight one example, USFWS partnered with Fauna & Flora International on a project aiming to significantly reduce the illegal collection and international trafficking of endangered endemic reptiles from the Lesser Antilles (Saint Lucia, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, and Barbados) to the United States, Europe and Japan.  The project is increasing the capacity of local agencies to detect and prevent illegal activities, enforce laws, and build public support to combat wildlife trafficking.  Results of the project include the establishment of a cross-border network to exchange intelligence on trafficking and the consistent deployment of monitoring patrols involving 24 government and civil society rangers covering at least 277 hectares.  Public engagement campaigns through this partnership are directly enhancing protections for several reptile species.  As a result of this work, St. Lucia boas have now been assessed by the IUCN Red List and designated as Endangered.  For Union Island geckos, the government of St. Vincent and the Grenadines used trade and population status data provided by FFI to formally propose the gecko for listing on Appendix I of the Convention on the International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES).

USFWS engagement amplified USAFRICOM efforts to identify areas of illicit activity convergence, while disrupting CWT and illegal mineral extraction networks throughout the USAFRICOM Area of Responsibility.  USAFRICOM supported several USFWS OLE priority investigations to include ivory and pangolin scale smuggling and continues to provide operational support.  USAFRICOM’s partnership with USFWS maximized the ability of both organizations to detect, deter, and disrupt trafficking and associated financial activities of those linked to international wildlife trafficking networks and transnational criminal organizations.  This partnership also contributed to the development of intelligence assessments, Intelligence Information Reports, and improved data collection, as well as enhancing coordination between the DoD, DoI, and other federal law enforcement partners.  The relationship between USFWS and USAFRICOM increased engagement with African partners in combating global wildlife trafficking.

Throughout 2018, NOAA OLE participated in joint enforcement inspections and investigations targeting the illegal trade of protected marine products alongside USFWS, Coast Guard, CBP, HSI, the Food and Drug Administration, and state enforcement partners.  NOAA OLE currently has several ongoing investigations resulting from these inspection activities.  In 2018, NOAA OLE reported six Lacey Act cases related to wildlife trafficking that were either open or referred to other agencies.  Species/product types include whale tooth/bone, shark teeth, seal pelts, subsistence Chinook salmon, and coral.

NOAA OLE investigative efforts in 2018 resulted, in May, in the criminal conviction of a former CBP agent in a trafficking case involving the illegal importation of CITES-protected coral into the United States.  A NOAA OLE agent examined approximately 100 Aqua SD sales invoices, which listed coral as the item being sold and compared them to UPS invoices with the same dates and customer names showing shipments labeled as ‘ceramic collectibles’ from the business to foreign customers.  Based on the invoices reviewed, the value of the falsely labeled coral exported is approximately $123,801.  This scheme allowed the business to avoid $50,032 in USFWS export inspection fees.

NOAA remains engaged with the Department-led interagency Working Group on Combating Conservation Crimes, including exploring areas of convergence across crimes related to the use of natural resources, to improve sharing of information/intelligence across agencies, and to be more strategic in addressing conservation crimes.  HSI, CBP, USFWS, NOAA, and U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) joined forces with CBP’s Commercial Targeting and Analysis Center (CTAC) and CBP’s NTC to enhance USG efforts to combat illegal imports of endangered wildlife.  The CTAC brings together key federal agencies with safety regulation oversight of imports into the United States, as well as agencies like HSI and USFWS with authority to enforce import violations.  CBP provides intensive systems and targeting training, along with operational targeting support, through the NTC.  HSI and USFWS co-located personnel at both the CTAC and the NTC.

In 2018, ICE HSI Attachés in Singapore, Nairobi, and Ho Chi Minh City participated in joint ivory DNA sampling operations conducted in collaboration with the University of Washington’s Center for Conservation Biology (CCB).  As part of ongoing ICE HSI investigations into ivory seizures in Cote D’Ivoire, Singapore, and Angola, ICE HSI partnered with the CCB, Cote D’Ivoire’s Unit Against Transnational Organized Crime, the Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority of Singapore, and the Angolan Criminal Investigative Service in January 2018, April 2018, and September 2018, respectively.  The sampling process developed by CCB allows investigators to determine the origin of poached ivory, ascertain the species and subspecies, and cultivate investigative leads that can link prior seizures and identify suspects involved with the trafficking of illicit ivory.  As most ivory traffickers face prosecution for a single seizure, connecting these traffickers to multiple large seizures greatly benefits prosecutors, allowing them to charge the traffickers with major crimes and impose tougher penalties.

By means of an interagency agreement with INL, ICE HSI developed a Cross-Border Financial Investigations Training program.  This program provided specialized financial investigations training and technical assistance to combat wildlife trafficking and other conservation crimes through the application of anti-money laundering laws and regulations.  Also during this time, ICE HSI Regional Attaché Beijing collaborated with USFWS and representatives from U.S. Embassy Ulaanbaatar and U.S. Embassy Beijing to provide a two-day training workshop on wildlife trafficking and border security for participants from the Mongolian government.  Attendees received specialized training on wildlife trafficking laws, best practices on inspection of cargo and vehicles, and investigative techniques in support of successful wildlife trafficking prosecutions.  The U.S. instructors also conducted several team building exercises focused on enhancing interagency collaboration and understanding of each components’ respective roles and responsibilities at Mongolian borders and ports of entry, as well as better understanding of Mongolia’s anti-trafficking laws.

In October 2018, as a consequence of a successful joint criminal investigation by ICE HSI, NOAA OLE and USFWS OLE, a Tucson firm and two executives were sentenced to pay over $1.2 million in fines, forfeiture, and restitution for the illegal trafficking of sea cucumber from 2010-2012.  The firm and the two executives were charged in a 26-count indictment with conspiracy, illegal trafficking in wildlife, importation contrary to law, false labeling, and criminal forfeiture related to their smuggling illegally-harvested sea cucumbers worth more than $17 million into the United States and selling the Chinese delicacy in Asian markets.  Following a six-year investigation led by ICE HIS, agents and officers from ICE HSI, CBP, and NOAA Fisheries were awarded a World Customs Organization (WCO) Certificate of Merit on behalf of the WCO Secretary General for their work to stop the smuggling of protected sea urchins.

The Department of Treasury prioritizes enhanced partnership among enforcement and intelligence agencies, bringing to bear its unique authorities to reduce and track the illicit proceeds generated by wildlife trafficking, and pairing work against wildlife trafficking with other initiatives against regional armed groups and transnational organized crime.  In 2018, Treasury worked with the Asia Pacific Group (APG) on Money Laundering and the United Nations Office of Drugs and Crime (UNODC), to develop best practices on how to make better use of financial intelligence and investigative techniques to support jurisdictions in CWT.  The APG’s comprehensive report evaluates source, transit, and destination jurisdictions and found that most jurisdictions in the region are affected by wildlife crime.  Treasury will continue to work with the Financial Action Task Force global network to identify and understand the global illicit finance risks associated with wildlife crime.  Treasury continues to engage with the interagency, civil society, and international partners to enhance information sharing on wildlife trafficking.

Through the Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC), Treasury utilizes available information for the potential application of Treasury’s sanctions authorities against individuals and entities who engage in wildlife trafficking.  On January 30, 2018, OFAC designated the Zhao Wei Transnational Criminal Organization (TCO) for engaging in multiple illicit activities, including wildlife trafficking.  Based in Laos within the Golden Triangle Special Economic Zone, the Zhaoi Wei TCO exploits this region by engaging in the trafficking of endangered and vulnerable animals, including Asiatic black bears, pangolin, tigers, rhinos, and elephants.  In addition to these efforts, OFAC supports members of the law enforcement community that investigate and trace illicit proceeds of wildlife trafficking and ivory poaching, including through a MoU that provides Bank Secrecy Act data (suspicious activity, currency transaction, and other reporting) access to the DoI, Fish and Wildlife Service’s Office of Law Enforcement.

This past year, the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (DNI) and the IC focused on three lines of effort for enhancing support to law enforcement.  First, DNI and its partners shared, in domestic and international fora, an unclassified summary of the IC’s study highlighting exploitable overlaps between wildlife crime and national security priorities.  Second, DNI used convergence insights to enlarge substantive collaborations between CWT law enforcement and IC agencies’ counter transnational crime collection and analysis.  Third, DNI advanced its effort to institutionalize and scale the IC convergence study’s successful cross-cutting methodology for characterizing criminal networks.  The goal remains to understand the larger criminal enterprise that traffics in wildlife alongside many other commodities.  An advanced knowledge management framework will enable the systematic sharing, analyzing, and contextualizing of large volumes of wildlife crime data along with that on other criminal sectors.

To advance security, governance, and biodiversity conservation objectives, USAID supports a range of wildlife law enforcement capacity building efforts in dozens of countries, primarily as part of comprehensive programs that conserve key protected areas and landscapes, strengthen conservation policies, help communities manage and benefit from natural resources, and improve the functioning of the criminal justice system.  For example, to address the poaching of hundreds of elephants annually in Mozambique’s oldest and largest protected area, Niassa National Reserve, USAID has invested in wildlife policy reform, a partnership with the Ministry of Justice, an embedded advisor to the wildlife and parks authority, and robust support for aerial and ground monitoring conducted by the Wildlife Conservation Society and tourism concessionaires reinforced by the Mozambican army.  As a result, elephant poaching in Niassa decreased by 73 percent from 2017 to 2018.

Bangladesh and Nepal also saw significant results, this time for tigers.  In 2018, USAID support to INTERPOL helped develop the evidence needed for local law enforcement to crack down on piracy off the coast of the Sundarbans wetland, a stronghold for tigers in Bangladesh.  At the community level, USAID supported training on patrolling and rescue operations by Village Tiger Response Teams, which helped address human-wildlife conflict, increase local support for wildlife conservation activities, and rescue and safely release 43 wild animals back into the forest.  Likewise in Nepal, a decade of USAID support for protection of key corridors, community anti-poaching teams, and capacity building in investigative techniques contributed to a 94 percent increase in tiger numbers, from 121 tigers in 2009 to 235 in 2018.  With this increase, Nepal is close to becoming the first country to individually reach the goal of doubling its tiger numbers by 2021, a global goal set by 13 tiger range countries in St. Petersburg in 2010.

In the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), USAID’s support strengthened CWT programs by providing training, equipment, and logistical support for 1,099 rangers across six protected areas, resulting in 277,586 kilometers patrolled, a 25 percent increase compared to the previous year.  As a result, nearly 1,300 hunting camps were destroyed, nearly 15,000 snares and traps were removed, and over 256 kilograms of ivory were confiscated compared to 166 kilograms during the previous year.  A total of 1,210 individuals were apprehended while carrying out illegal activities, up from 518 in FY 2017.  In DRC’s Garamba National Park, USAID’s support helped reduce elephant poaching to just two cases, down from 56 cases in FY 2017 and 99 in FY 2016, reflecting the greater security park rangers brought to the area.  Attacks by the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) and other armed groups on villages within Garamba’s area of operation were reduced from 68 in 2015 to just one in 2018.

USAID continued to improve and institutionalize wildlife crime enforcement from arrest through prosecution.  In the Philippines, a Wildlife Law Enforcement Manual of Operations improved skills in wildlife species identification, handling and management techniques, investigation and prosecution of wildlife crimes.  In Uganda, a Wildlife Crime Prosecution Manual and Guidelines were updated with the latest wildlife case information, sentencing, and resources for prosecutors.  A new volume is being written specifically for judges and magistrates, summarizing wildlife laws and precedents for sentencing.  In Vietnam, USAID collaborated with the Supreme People’s Procuracy (SPP) to develop a manual on wildlife crime prosecutions, which is being used as a training resource.  In Mozambique, USAID partnered with UNODC to develop a Rapid Reference Manual to investigate and prosecute wildlife crimes, including step-by-step guidance for the prosecution of 90 wildlife-related crimes.  Distribution of the manual, along with training to 70 enforcement officials, resulted in a 26 percent increase in the number of wildlife crimes being prosecuted in Niassa, Gorongosa, and Limpopo conservation areas.

USAID continued to support the use of advanced technology for rapid, effective enforcement responses to CWT.  At the Kenya Wildlife Service forensics lab, under the USAID funded Partnership for Enhanced Engagement in Research (PEER), DNA sequencing is being used to quickly match elephant dung to ivory recovered in search and seizure operations.  Expedited matching of ivory samples to specific animal migration routes is now allowing for quick prosecution of traffickers and alerting wildlife officers to major shifts in poaching activities.

Technology also strengthened communication systems and data-collection capacity of park managers, law enforcement officials, and communities.  In southern African countries (Zambia, Zimbabwe, Botswana and Namibia), USAID equipped and trained 100 rangers and community game guards in use of the Spatial Monitoring and Reporting Tool (SMART).  Over 500 conservancy rangers, managers, and wardens were similarly trained in Kenya.  In Zimbabwe’s Gonarezhou National Park, USAID upgraded the digital communications infrastructure and network, increasing radio coverage from 40 to 90 percent of the park.  This upgrade, coupled with effective partnerships, increased patrols, and improved community awareness and participation, reduced poaching incidents by 40 percent compared to 2017.  In three Caribbean island nations and Costa Rica, 16 officials were trained in SMART software and techniques, adapted to marine area enforcement.  In Indonesia, USAID supported SMART training in six national parks covering 2.5 million hectares, helping reduce poaching by 72 percent in Leuser National Park and 68 percent in Cyclops Nature Reserve, and contributing to seven wildlife law enforcement actions.

Along with partners and financial institutions, USAID supported TRAFFIC, the wildlife trade monitoring network, to establish the Financial Institution Expert Group and Task Force on Illegal Wildlife Trade, which has produced products to detect and report wildlife crime offenders who exploit financial systems for illicit trade.  For example, 10,000 trade profiles were added to a database that financial institutions can use to screen clients for wildlife crime connections.

Marking World Pangolin Day on February 17, USAID developed and unveiled a guide to help law enforcement officers identify species and origins of pangolins, the world’s single most trafficked mammal.  The Pangolin Species Identification Guide:  A Rapid Assessment Tool for Field and Desk—published in 10 languages—was featured on many news and online sources.  E-Jan, a Thai social media page with 5.5 million followers, shared the story, which was viewed 419,000 times.  USAID also rolled out an interactive smartphone application to aid law enforcement and customs officials in the identification of pangolins and pangolin products.

USAID support for training and equipping law enforcement personnel and incentivizing communities is having a positive impact on rhino populations.  In Zambia, 401 law enforcement personnel – the majority of whom were trained community scouts – and seven Wildlife Police Officers trained as dog handlers, carried out detailed rhino tracking and monitoring monthly in North Luangwa National Park, which contributed to another year of zero poaching of black rhino.  In Zimbabwe, performance-based incentives for communities that provide critical information about illegal trafficking activities resulted in reduced poaching and an increase in rhino birth and survival rates in two key poaching hotspots.  Similarly in Kenya, where USAID has long supported community conservancies, national poaching statistics continued to decline so that only 4 rhinos were poached in 2018 as compared to 59 in 2013.

As noted for Bangladesh, Nepal, Zambia and Zimbabwe, communities can be a first line of defense against illegal wildlife trade when they are sufficiently motivated, trained, and equipped.  This applies to Angola’s Cubango region, where USAID anti-poaching campaigns targeting thousands of rural people resulted in the creation of an informant network and the mapping of 20 key wildlife crime hotspots.  In Kenya, USAID supported more than 870 community conservancy rangers, including the training of 37 at the Kenya Wildlife Services (KWS) Law Enforcement Academy, which improved anti-poaching efforts, increased joint community-government patrols, and generally promoted closer collaboration between community conservancies and KWS.  To better understand why communities do or do not engage in wildlife crime, USAID also supported work with multiple community conservancies to test and refine a framework for promoting productive community engagement in CWT and made results available online in English, French, and Portuguese.

USAID’s efforts to increase capacity and regional and transboundary collaboration are producing positive results.  In an important ivory trade route, 67 Zambian and 112 Malawian rangers and wildlife officials were trained on improved CWT practices.  Since 2017, Malawi’s Wildlife Crime Investigation Unit and Kasungu National Park Rapid Response Unit, in coordination with Zambian law enforcement, seized a combined 3.65 tons of ivory, 58 firearms, and 3 live pangolins in 18 operations, resulting in 148 arrests.

Reducing Demand

The National Strategy recognizes that, as we work to strengthen enforcement, we must also reduce demand among consumers at home and abroad.  This involves raising awareness about laws and penalties associated with buying or selling illegal wildlife and wildlife products, the efficacy, safety and public health risks of illegal wildlife used as food, medicine or pets, and the economic, social and ecological impacts of wildlife crime.  To help people make the right choices, we need to reduce opportunities and incentives to buy illegal wildlife products.

In China, USAID launched an extensive campaign to increase awareness of the new Wildlife Protection Law and domestic ivory ban and to decrease consumer demand.  Key messages targeting affluent urban consumers were conveyed through an animated video and four Public Service Announcements (PSAs) that highlighted the penalties for consumption of illegal wildlife products.  By the end of FY 2018, the videos were shown on more than 60,000 screens in public areas in four major cities and received more than twelve million views on Chinese online platforms.  The PSAs were disseminated in airports of eight major cities and on 1,521 flights, which garnered more than 30 million views.  They were also shown on more than 500 buses in Beijing and 120 bus shelters across four smaller cities.  The campaign leveraged more than $4.3 million of in-kind support from several Chinese enterprises and other sources.

Additionally, USAID completed research in China and Thailand that identified in detail who is buying what wildlife products, why, and under what circumstances.  Based on the research, USAID is designing targeted social marketing campaigns to reduce consumer demand for these products.  A similar USAID-supported study in Vietnam is helping structure evidence-based social behavior change communication initiatives to reduce consumer demand for elephant, pangolin, and rhino products.  USAID continued support for an online Wildlife Consumer Behavior Change Toolkit, Social and Behavior Change Communications guidelines, and a demand reduction community of practice, available at: Changewildlifeconsumers.org.  By harnessing behavior change expertise from a number of fields, the website acts as a platform for exchange of insight, evidence, perspectives, and experience, and serves as a repository of relevant technical reference material and information resources.

NOAA Fisheries provided funds to the Food and Agriculture Organization to conduct a study on the use and commercialization of shark and ray non-fin commodities.  The project will provide information on the importance of non-fin commodities in driving shark and ray fisheries and improve our understanding of the trade and its impacts on stocks.  NOAA Fisheries is working collaboratively with FWS to address the illegal trade in totoaba.  NOAA Fisheries provided information to a CITES notification requesting that range, transit, and consumer states of totoaba provide information on their implementation of CITES totoaba related decisions.  NOAA Fisheries provided information on illegal catch and illegal trade efforts, interception of illegal shipments, and seizures, arrests and prosecutions related to the illegal trafficking of totoaba products.

Building International Cooperation

The Department’s OES Bureau works globally to strengthen international cooperation and maximize diplomatic efforts on CWT.  OES engages through a range of regional and multilateral fora, including the G7, G20, APEC, ASEAN OSCE, the Commission on Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice (CCPCJ) and CITES.  For instance, through OES leadership, the U.S. has long-standing efforts under ASEAN for combating wildlife trafficking, and was instrumental in the 2018 launch of the ASEAN Working Group on Illicit Trafficking in Wildlife and Timber under the framework of the ASEAN Senior Officials Meeting on Transnational Crime.

OES provides strategic input for CWT programming through the Global Environment Facility (GEF), which included more than $80 million under the first phase of the Global Wildlife Program from 2007 to 2018.  At the June 2018 Sixth GEF Assembly in Vietnam, OES led a high-level round table emphasizing wildlife trafficking as a security threat and highlighting new avenues for progress under the GEF, including engaging the financial sector to disrupt illicit financial flows associated with wildlife trafficking and urging the private sector to tackle the growing challenge of illegal trade through online purchases.

The State Department’s engagement has been critical for identifying and supporting innovative solutions to address wildlife trafficking problems and engage the most strategic partners.  On the margins of the 2018 London Conference, OES and the U.S. embassy hosted a reception showcasing new U.S. technologies used to combat wildlife trafficking.  The interactive exhibit highlighted advances by the U.S. tech sector and new opportunities for collaboration with NGOs and governments to combat wildlife trafficking globally.

OES successfully advocated to include references to combating wildlife trafficking in the Leaders’ Outcome Document for the 2018 Summit of the Americas, a meeting that brings together leaders from 35 countries in the Americas to discuss social, economic, and security issues.  The first-ever inclusion of CWT in the Outcome Document was significant because it provided clear political support for CWT efforts across Latin America.  OES continued to foster international attention and support for CWT in Latin America, engaging in the High-Level Americas Round Table on the Margins of the 2018 London Conference.  OES efforts to highlight the importance of CWT actions in multiple fora, spurred Peru to offer to host the first regional conference on combating wildlife trafficking, which will take place in October.

The State Department’s bilateral diplomatic engagement has secured stronger national commitments from countries around the world, in particular securing commitments from more countries to close their domestic ivory markets.  In 2018, as a result of OES efforts, Hong Kong, Taiwan, and the United Kingdom announced they would close their domestic ivory markets.

OES held its annual Zoohackathon in 2018, bringing together teams of university students, software professionals, and wildlife enthusiasts to create unique technological solutions to combat wildlife trafficking challenges.  This program supports U.S. efforts to reduce wildlife trafficking by strengthening USG relationships with key private sector contacts, raising public awareness among new and diverse audiences, and empowering participants to become part of the solution.  The 2018 winning solution “Conscious Consumer,” is a Google Chrome browser extension that educates online shoppers about product sustainability and potentially illegal or trafficked items in products they are considering.

In April 2018, the State Department was designated by the National Security Council to lead the U.S. interagency effort on the Administration’s priority initiative to combat conservation crimes.  Wildlife trafficking, illegal logging, IUU, and the illegal extraction and trade of gold and other minerals are included in the initiative.  These illegal activities have links to transnational organized crime, including drugs, weapons, and human trafficking, and pose similar threats to national security, economic prosperity, the rule of law and the environment.  Under this initiative, OES spearheads an interagency effort to tackle financial crimes and money laundering associated with wildlife crime – through policy approaches, capacity building and training, and working with the financial sector.

OES leads U.S. efforts to promote international cooperation and coordination to combat wildlife trafficking through regional Wildlife Enforcement Networks (WENs).  WENs are regional intergovernmental networks that bring together wildlife authorities, law enforcement, customs and border officials, prosecutors and other stakeholders to build cross-border cooperation.  In 2018, OES provided a $750,000 award to the International Consortium for Combating Wildlife Crime (ICCWC) to combat wildlife trafficking globally by strengthening regional WENs and their ability to work collaboratively across regions.

The United States is an active member of the INTERPOL Wildlife Crime Working Group (WCWG) and a representative of the USFWS serves on the Executive Board (Secretary).  The WCWG organized annual meetings and various intersessional activities, including global enforcement operations such as Operation Thunderstorm (2018).  The United States maintained a leadership role in organizing the 29th Meeting of the WCWG in London 2018 where investigators and senior wildlife law enforcement officers from 37 countries convened to exchange experiences and share intelligence in the global effort to combat wildlife trafficking.

USAID worked with partners from more than 10 countries across Asia and Africa to co‑host four law enforcement capacity building events with participants from customs, police, wildlife/forestry authorities, prosecutors, and financial crime investigators.  This included two Counter Transnational Organized Crime courses designed to impart the knowledge and skills required to identify and disrupt organized, cross-border wildlife supply chains.  The courses fostered trust and enhanced collaboration in dismantling organized criminal syndicates.  USAID facilitated exchanges between Lao and Thai policy makers to explore best practices in regulatory and policy responses to wildlife trafficking.  A delegation of Lao officials met with their counterparts from the Royal Thai government in a five-day exchange to review improvements and implementation strategies for the National Ivory Action Plans for Thailand and Lao PDR.

USAID also supported the first Environment Directorate of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) meeting of partners and CITES focal points, leading to unprecedented regional consensus that identified six priority areas for a coordinated regional response to wildlife crime among ECOWAS member states.  This coordination along with recommendations for the establishment of a CITES Enforcement Network and a funding mechanism for implementing the finalized strategy are the blueprints for initiating a West Africa CWT Strategy, to be submitted to the ECOWAS Commission in 2019.

USTR and the Department of State continued to engage with U.S. trading partners on efforts to combat wildlife trafficking.  Wildlife trafficking was a central topic of the 2018 senior-level Environmental Affairs Council meetings of the Dominican Republic-Central America-United States Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA-DR), the United States-Panama Trade Promotion Agreement, the United States-Peru Trade Promotion Agreement, and the United States-Chile Free Trade Agreement.  Under the free trade agreements with Jordan, Oman, and Morocco, respectively, the Department of State negotiated new work programs for environmental technical cooperation with these U.S. partners for 2018 through 2021.  CITES implementation was one of the main areas of mutual interest, including protecting endangered species, strengthening enforcement, and providing regional technical exchanges.  For example, funding provided Morocco with a “CITES 101” training to customs officers and delivered technical assistance in the development of processes and protocols for implementing CITES.  The Department also funded training and mentorship programs that helped foster conservation efforts and scientific research of loggerhead sea turtles in Oman.  Under the framework of CAFTA-DR, the Department provided funding to DoI to support the Central American Wildlife Enforcement Network (CAWEN), whose participating agencies carried out 17 cross-border and national enforcement operations that resulted in 461 arrests and the seizure of 4,399 wildlife specimens.

Importantly, the United States has also supported global coordination efforts to implement CITES.  Department funding and a USFWS cooperative agreement support the CITES Secretariat in Geneva, Switzerland, to combat wildlife trafficking by executing activities outlined in the Decisions and Resolutions adopted by CITES Parties.  Additionally, an inter-agency agreement between USFWS and the Department of State INL Bureau aims to enhance implementation of CITES in Southeast Asia.  This work has led to numerous outcomes, including the development of National Ivory Action Plans and enhanced CITES implementation in Cambodia and Lao PDR.

DoJ now has its first-ever RLA specifically dedicated to building capacity to investigate and prosecute wildlife trafficking crimes.  DoJ’s Office of Overseas Prosecutorial Development Assistance and Training (OPDAT), with funding and support from the Department of State, selected a prosecutor from the Environmental Crimes Section of the ENRD to sit in the U.S. Embassy in Laos for this position, which covers the Southeast Asia region.  The RLA assists governments in the region through counter-wildlife trafficking training, case-based mentoring, assistance with legislation, and facilitating law enforcement cooperation in the region.

At the 2018 London Conference on wildlife trafficking, then-Attorney General Sessions led the U.S. delegation and delivered a high-profile statement that was well received.  On the same trip, then-Acting Assistant Attorney General Wood delivered remarks at the INTERPOL WCWG meeting in London.  DoJ participates in international partnerships and networks that promote effective prosecution of transnational environmental crimes, such as INTERPOL’s environmental crimes working groups, the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation Experts Group on Illegal Logging and Associated Trade, and a UNODC Working Group established to develop and provide prosecutorial and legislative guidance for combating wildlife crime.  In addition, DoJ provides support for U.S. efforts to enhance enforcement of wildlife crimes through the CITES framework, such as by supporting CITES capacity-building efforts and by advocating for use of CITES compliance measures to ensure that CITES parties establish effective domestic enforcement regimes.

NOAA OLE continues to provide counter-wildlife trafficking law enforcement expertise during numerous bi- and multi-lateral international engagements, such as the Caribbean Wildlife Enforcement Network.  Additionally, NOAA OLE is participating as observer in the “Network of Exchange of information and experiences among countries of Latin America and Caribbean to Prevent, Discourage and Eliminate Illegal, Unregulated, and Unauthorized (IUU) Fishing,” a UN initiative.

NOAA actively participates in INTERPOL’s Global Fisheries Enforcement program, which supports member countries in identifying, deterring, and disrupting trafficking of protected marine products.  These efforts resulted in coherent international law enforcement collaboration and effective investigative responses worldwide.  NOAA also serves on the Executive Board of the Fisheries Crime Working Group.  NOAA supports efforts to improve the capacity of foreign partners to combat the illegal trade in protected marine products by participating in enforcement and prosecution training workshops in multiple countries, including Ghana, Thailand, and the Philippines.  These trainings focus on law enforcement best practices such as evidence collection/control, investigation tools, case preparation, and information sharing as well as regional fisheries management organization conservation and management measures that address prohibited/protected marine species and mitigating the unintentional take of protected species.

Additionally, NOAA, as part of an interagency team, is coordinating with partner nations in the European Union and Africa, as well as with non-governmental organizations, to improve the ability of coastal African nations to detect and halt IUU fishing.  Over the past five years, the United States has worked with personnel from the Navies, Marine Police and Coast Guards of Gulf of Guinea nations to detect and address violations of national fisheries laws and regulations.  The objective is to more effectively stop or deter potential violators.  The United States also works with Maritime Operations Centers to improve detection of IUU fishing in the nations’ Exclusive Economic Zones from on shore, thereby improving Maritime Domain Awareness and increasing the efficiency of national law enforcement.  The United States is currently working with Interregional Coordination Center in Yaounde, Cameroon, to develop a long-term cooperation and training strategy that will guide the capacity-building activities in the Gulf of Guinea region for countering IUU fishing.

NOAA partnered with Indonesian and Philippine NGOs, academics from in-country institutions, and relevant Ministries in order to better understand the scope of these small-scale fisheries bycatch and illegal global trade, how they may impact turtle populations, and how to develop tools to better reduce these threats.  These collaborations include conducting rapid fishery bycatch assessments and testing of novel bycatch reduction technologies.  In addition, rapid response teams have been developed to help law enforcement authorities with the process of sampling interdicted sea turtles.  This has, in turn, allowed a network of local researchers to receive and store genetic samples, and, in the future, also analyze the genetic samples.  Such work is crucial to better understand the connectivity between sea turtles illegally trafficked in the region and the effects on critically endangered U.S. sea turtle populations.

USAID and USFWS supported a second cohort of 14 West African students to participate in the CITES Master’s Program in Spain.  USAID’s support to these national leaders provided students opportunities to learn from conservation professionals.  While students complete and defend theses, their predecessors in the first cohort to graduate from the CITES Master’s Program are steadily advancing their careers and increasing their influence on CITES and wildlife conservation issues.  Graduates now include a Principal Wildlife Conservation Officer, two CITES National Focal Points, and a Wildlife Division Chief.

Sharing CWT programming success that includes adaptive management strengthens the global community effort.  In 2018, USAID collected lessons about what works best to build capacity for enforcement and prosecution, turning 49 contributions into 12 published case studies that were shared at a learning exchange in South Africa.  Some of the secrets to success identified include: using technology for more effective data collection and management, building effective partnerships among stakeholders, fostering local ownership and involvement, and leveraging outside experts and internal champions.  A common consideration is that wildlife trafficking solutions must be carefully adapted to the local context by collaborating with stakeholders to develop relevant approaches.  These lessons are now strengthening efforts by a range of governments, donors and implementing partners.

Interagency collaboration has been essential to USAID’s private sector engagement on wildlife trafficking, particularly work with the transportation sector through the Reducing Opportunities for Unlawful Transport of Endangered Species (ROUTES) partnership.  ROUTES includes industry groups (Airports Council International and International Air Transport Association), Task Force members (Department of Homeland Security, Department of State and USFWS), and several NGO partners.  In 2018, ROUTES promoted engagement at five global aviation conferences, assessed five airport hubs’ vulnerability to wildlife trafficking across Africa and Asia and successfully established partnerships with transport companies such as FedEx, UPS, Delta, and Qatar Airways.  ROUTES also developed an app for luggage, cargo and passenger screeners to report wildlife crime and other suspicious observations to law enforcement.  Over the course of the year, ROUTES trained more than 700 airline and airport staff, and developed online training modules customized to user needs.

Read the 2019 END Wildlife Trafficking Report.

U.S. Department of State

The Lessons of 1989: Freedom and Our Future