Taking Action To Save Our "Planet in Peril"

November 5, 2007
Illegally Trafficked Animal Goods

Claudia A. McMurray is the U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for Oceans, Environment and Science.

I recently watched with great interest the CNN documentary, “Planet in Peril”, as it covered in-depth many of the issues that my staff and I work on daily. I don’t think that many people know that the U.S. Department of State is actively involved in a wide range of international environmental issues, such as over fishing of our oceans, protecting coral reefs, climate change, and wildlife conservation. I have a strong personal commitment to combating the illegal trade of endangered species.

That is why I was so pleased that CNN aired an in-depth documentary which highlighted the need for us all to work together to stop the illegal trade. Wildlife trafficking is an insidious crime that threatens species with extinction, contributes to the spread of diseases and is often linked to organized crime, involving many of the same culprits and smuggling routes as trafficking in arms, drugs, and persons.

Many governments are very much committed to combating these crimes – and at the highest levels. To address this problem the United States formed the Coalition Against Wildlife Trafficking (CAWT), a unique, voluntary public-private coalition of likeminded governments and organizations that share a common purpose. Coalition partners include: Australia, Canada, Chile, the Republic of India, the United Kingdom, the United States and thirteen international non-governmental organizations (NGO), including Wildlife Alliance. The Coalition’s goal is to stop the flow of these products by strengthening wildlife law enforcement, reducing consumer demand for illegally traded wildlife, and catalyzing high-level political will to fight wildlife trafficking.

To meet these goals, the U.S.-led coalition has been active on a number of fronts. First, we helped create the Wildlife Enforcement Network of the ASEAN nations. The network is designed to improve communication and the sharing of information among countries that share borders and cannot combat the illegal activity alone. Just in the short time this network has been operating there have been many success stories, including returning 48 orangutans to Indonesia from Thailand, and breaking up several cross-boarder smuggling rings.

The U.S. government has also been actively involved in training customs inspectors, police, park and forest officials, prosecutors and judges in methods of apprehending criminals, protecting important evidence and presenting cases in court – all to ensure that criminals are actually punished for this activity.

Finally, the U.S. and CAWT are working to increase public awareness so that consumers will stop buying these products. Last year, Secretary of State Rice appointed Bo Derek as her Special Envoy for Wildlife Trafficking Issues. Just last week, Ms. Derek and I traveled to Miami to bring attention to the issue. In the near future, a Public Service Announcement by Harrison Ford will appear worldwide.

As you can see then, the United States and other governments are very engaged on this issue. Can we use more help? You bet. We hope programs like “Planet in Peril” and the individual efforts of everyone around the world to stop buying these products will move us closer to ending the illegal trade.

For more information on the Coalition Against Wildlife Trafficking, please visit our website at http://www.cawtglobal.org/cawt/public/home.

Comments

Comments

Ronald
|
New York, USA
November 5, 2007

Ronald in New York writes:

Planetary Perils.....

The perils of the planet are rooted in a lack of economic equity and political will to provide it.

In the era of privatization and globalization, all commodities are up for grabs. Whether opium, diamonds, elephant tusks, flora or fauna, there will be an ever-growing supply and demand. Celebrity envoys will always be available to highlight the issue, and well-financed news organizations will always have the resources to chase down frightened polar-bear moms and their cubs. The U.S. is really driving the demand for planetary pleasures, and should stop so the rest of the world can slow the process down. We must come up with alternative sources for sustainable living.

Joy
|
Thailand
November 6, 2007

Joy in Thailand writes:

@ SNP in Syria -- SNP makes a very important point.

The ASEAN Wildlife Enforcement Network, mentioned above by Claudia, is supported by two non-governmental organizations Wildlife Alliance and TRAFFIC with most of its funding from USAID. Through these organizations, the Wildlife Enforcement Network is conducting public awareness campaigns to bring much needed attention to the illegal wildlife trade, in addition to conducting trainings for environment, customs, law enforcement and judiciary officials.

The "Sold Out" campaign features posters and billboards that show stunning images of rare animals as reminders to consumers of what will happen if wildlife consumption is not stopped. You can find these posters around Bangkok, Thailand at targeted locations such as the Jatujak (JJ) Market, famous for its legal and illegal sales of exotic wildlife or at the Bangkok International Suvanabhumi Airport as foreign tourists arrive in a city known for its shopping.

For more information please go to: http://www.wildlifealliance.org/where-we-work/thailand/national-outreach...

Gregory K.
|
California, USA
November 6, 2007

Gregory in California writes:

It would seem to me the best way to end the illegal trade in wild animals would be to farm them as we do for any product that there is high demand for and not much of the product available. This problem of high demand and low supply means the most unsavory people will always take risks to fill the demand because the profits are always high, ala illegal drugs.

LAMIN
|
New York, USA
November 8, 2007

Lamin in New York writes:

Why we mankind are so worried about a way to save this planet that we live on? Don't we know that, we and this planet are not created to last forever? and the planet is taking that direction. Noah lived on this planet for one thousand years less for fifty .Today our life expectancy is a hundred years. Please let us not waste time, money and energy. Let feed the poor.

Eric
|
New Mexico, USA
November 9, 2007

Eric in New Mexico writes:

Wild creatures need the protection of their natural habitat to survive, not just legal protection. Preserves can ward off extinction in some cases, but deforestation has to be reversed. Not just to grow wild creatures in, but to convert CO2 into O2 and restore a natural defense against global warming that has been damaged by man.

Now if poachers made better money planting trees, we wouldn't be having this discussion, so I'll leave it to someone more economically creative than I to figure out how to make it so.

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