Why Does Snake-Shy Indiana Jones Care About Tigers?

Posted by Billie Gross
June 5, 2008
Harrison Ford: Wildlife Trafficking PSAs

About the Author: Billie Gross is a Public Affairs Specialist in the Bureau of Oceans, International Environmental and Scientific Affairs.View Video

...Because he knows that many animal species are being threatened by a bounty on their heads, furs, skins, feathers, teeth, tusks, and bones. Don’t be fooled, that attractive-looking belt or ivory necklace could have been procured illegally by poachers.

The illicit trade in wildlife is a growing black market that amounts to at least $10 billion a year globally and is an even greater threat to wildlife than the loss of their habitat. Many of the animals currently being captured, killed and trafficked are at the brink of extinction, and the demand for these goods is pushing these creatures ever closer to the edge. This demand creates imbalances among the animal species, which can lead to greater impacts on the human species.

Today, as part of World Environment Day, the U.S. State Department held a launch event promoting three Public Service Announcements (PSAs) featuring Indiana Jones himself - Harrison Ford. The PSAs, which aim to combat the illegal trade in wildlife, were introduced by the Secretary of State's Special Envoy on Wildlife Trafficking, actress Bo Derek. (Yes, the actress from 10 and Tommy Boy is keenly interested in saving animal species from extinction.)

The event hosted at the United Nation by Assistant Secretary of State for Oceans, Environment and Science Claudia A. McMurray included senior representatives from the five partner nations in the Coalition Against Wildlife Trafficking as well as non-governmental partner organizations.

The PSA's were launched globally and are already airing in Brazil, Costa Rica, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Macau and Suriname. Public events are planned or underway in over thirty countries to highlight this growing issue and to spread awareness of the problem.

The United States is the second-largest market after China for consumption and demand for illegal wildlife and wildlife products. Thus, these PSAs are aimed not only at a global audience, but also much closer to home.

It is my hope that future generations won’t need to learn about tigers or elephants simply from books or computer simulations, but will be able to see them alive and well, roaming the earth in their natural habitat. If we don’t stop the consumption, for many of these majestic creatures, it may already be too late. After all, considering the costs, we don't really need a coral necklace or a bowl of shark fin soup, do we?



New York, USA
June 20, 2008

Ronald in New York writes:

Illicit Trades Top 2 Trillion...demand for exotica will diminish when new forms of employment are generated and those who create the demand are held accountable.

New Mexico, USA
June 6, 2008

Eric in New Mexico writes:

I think it's great that folks in the private sector take initiative on conservation and preservation of species.

But I think it will be only when we truly consider ourselves as an endangered species will the human condition start to improve globally.

I say this as the humanitarian aid needed to save 1 million people is sailing away from Burma.

I say this as 300 million in the Mideast are at risk from the proliferation of WMD, and a radical mindset in Tehran willing to wipe nations off the map.

I say this as millions more are at risk of starvation across the globe due to higher cost of food staples.

I say this as some 50-60 conflicts across the globe endanger the peace and security of populations.

Personally, I think Mother Nature is fed up with us in general, and we better get our priorities strait if we're to survive into the 22nd century.

United States
June 8, 2008

Zharkov in U.S.A. writes:

If the government allowed people to keep endangered species as pets, there would soon be too many of them.

Every kind of animal that has been kept as a pet has thrived and multiplied to the point that we now euthanize many thousands, possibly millions, of dogs, cats, and other creatures every year at animal shelters.

This doesn't mean ordinary citizens need to keep wild animals at home, but they should be allowed to feed them when they are hungry and help them when they are injured.

Currently, it is a violation of federal law for a citizen to touch an animal on the endangered species list, so if a bald eagle is hit by a car, a citizen must either stand back and watch it die or risk arrest trying to help it.

Government property is often neglected and left in disrepair, and examples of this abound - decaying military bases, neglected Indian affairs, missing money, unauditable books, and so on, not just in this administration but as far back in history as you care to look. The poor creatures who depend on government rescue need to lower their expectations. Private citizens can do a far better job if allowed to do so.

New Mexico, USA
June 9, 2008

Eric in New Mexico writes:

MMMmmm, Zharkov got me thinkin' on that one. Now if we all treated each other like we do our pets, does that mean there would be too many of us on this planet?

Well, we tend to "euthanize" ourselves pretty consistantly as the human species through conflict and neglect, and maybe that is the bottom line population control method humanity has used as far back in human history as one would care to look. These goings on endanger other species as well.

We ruin their habitat as we ruin our own, but human compassion is not limited by this government's dysfunctionality as you suggest, as if it somehow were of a similar mindset to that of Burmese leadership.

In fact Zharkov, there's a news item I recently read of a bald eagle that was found by a citizen in a city landfill with his beak shot away by poachers. The bird is now getting a prothetic beak attached. And no "risk" of government ire manifest in Orwellian action was involved.

Zharkov, while it is true one can never expect miracles, I remain an optimist because it is possible to anticipate them.

Tennessee, USA
June 11, 2008

Joe in Tennessee writes:

Seems there are more important issues tied to this.

If the people had productive leadership in these countries that provided JOBS and decent living standards, it would be a moot issue for the most part.

The fact that if there is a market, someone will fill the demand can only be cured with legal ramifications that are costly beyond the profit.

Zharkov..is that the American spelling ???

United States
June 19, 2008

Zharkov in U.S.A. writes:

There have been several news stories about the danger of rescuing endangered species - one about a woman who accidentally hit an endangered owl on the highway and she took it to a vet and was thereafter threatened with arrest; another story about a seal pup tangled in a net near San Diego and the guy who untangled the net to free the seal was told he was being investigated for violating the law. No charges have been brought in either case as far as I know, but all citizens remain subject to threat of arrest for touching a protected wild animal. The law itself is quite clear, I think, that it does not apply to an emergency rescue, but the people charged with enforcement seem unable to properly interpret the law, so the threat of arrest continues. If you attempt to assist an injured protected animal, you risk criminal charges and very heavy attorney's fees for defending against the accusation. Your future is then placed in the hands of a US attorney, and your net worth depends on his personal opinion on whether or not you should be prosecuted.

I suppose some people do not mind playing Russian Roulette with their financial future, but that is what they are doing when they become a good samaritan to an injured protected species. Under the current Endangered Species Act, injured animals are more likely to end up as roadkill.


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