Wildlife trafficking generates billions of dollars in illicit revenue each year and destroys entire species ranging from pangolins to elephants and rhinos. These crimes undermine security, fuel instability, threaten the rule of law, spread disease, and destabilize communities that depend on natural resources for their livelihoods. Criminal networks exploit porous borders and weak institutions to profit from trading in illegal wildlife.
INL plays an important role in the United States’ fight against the illicit trade of wildlife. INL programs focus on building criminal justice sector capacity in partner nations along the entire supply chain for illicit wildlife trafficking. These efforts include:
- Supporting interdiction efforts at ports, airports, border checkpoints, and other transit areas to curb the flow of illegal wildlife products;
- Enhancing investigative and law enforcement functions of our foreign enforcement partners at all levels, including support for park rangers;
- Strengthening legislative frameworks of partner nations to ensure effective laws are in place and developing capacity to prosecute and adjudicate wildlife crimes and related corruption worldwide; and
- Supporting cross-border regional and global law enforcement cooperation.
Across the U.S. government, INL works with the Department of Interior, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the U.S. Forest Service, the Department of Commerce’s National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and the Department of Justice Environmental Natural Resource Division. This collaboration includes implementation of counter-wildlife trafficking courses at INL’s International Law Enforcement Academies (ILEAs).
Other additional interagency coordination includes INL’s work, since October 2021, with the Department of Interior International Training Assistance Program (DOI-ITAP) to deliver digital forensics training to combat online trafficking in wildlife and forest products. The program will train select investigators from Colombia, Peru, Thailand, South Africa, Liberia, Uganda, and Nigeria. INL Programs: INL works with key source, transit, and demand countries in Africa, Asia, and Latin America to bolster their ability to combat wildlife trafficking.
In wildlife trafficking hotspots, INL strengthens enforcement to prevent wildlife crimes before they occur. For example, in Malawi, INL programs improved the capacity of investigators, leading to progress in dismantling some of the continent’s largest wildlife trafficking networks. INL also builds capacity to investigate and prosecute crimes in destination countries for illegal wildlife and to build partnerships between countries that play a role in these transnational crimes. For example, INL supported UNODC’s work on Operation Mekong Dragon II, which brought a broad range of countries together in joint customs operations, resulting in the seizure of more than 1,500 wildlife products. Diplomatic Support: INL also works with international organizations such as the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Pathfinder Dialogue, Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), UN Crime Commission, World Economic Forum, Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), and G-7 Roma-Lyon Group (RLG).