World Environment Day: Illegal Wildlife Trade Threatens Endangered Species

Posted by Billie Gross
June 5, 2009

About the Author: Billie Gross serves as a Public Affairs Specialist in the Bureau of Oceans, Environment and Science at the U.S. Department of State.

As the black market wildlife trade continues to flourish, the Department of State remains steadfast in its efforts to highlight this critical issue and to spread public awareness of the problem. To continue the momentum spurred by the highly successful Harrison Ford PSAs, the Department of State has once again partnered with WildAid.

Today, in recognition of World Environment Day, the U.S. State Department is showcasing two Public Service Announcements (PSAs) featuring conservationist Dr. Jane Goodall. Dr. Goodall, a world renowned primatologist and founder of the Jane Goodall Institute, agreed to film the PSAs to further spread the message that reducing demand for illegally trafficked goods will prevent the killing of endangered species. These PSAs were filmed in New York City in September 2008 and are now being distributed to overseas audiences with the help of U.S. embassies around the world.

The illicit trade in wildlife 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. Ultimately, extinctions have grave impacts for ecosystems and human communities as well.

The Coalition Against Wildlife Trafficking (CAWT), initiated in 2005, focuses public and political attention and resources on ending the illegal trade in wildlife and wildlife products. Members of the CAWT include the governments of Australia, Canada, India and the United Kingdom as well as a host of other nongovernmental organizations.

The U.S. works with its CAWT partners to improve wildlife law enforcement by expanding enforcement training, information sharing and strengthening regional cooperative networks. CAWT works to energize high-level political will to fight wildlife trafficking by broadening support at the highest political levels for actions to combat the illegal trade in wildlife. It also focuses its efforts on reducing consumer demand for illegally traded wildlife by raising awareness of the impacts of illegal wildlife trade.

Awareness is critical because we may be contributing to the illegal wildlife trade simply by unknowingly purchasing goods that are a result of that trade. It’s very easy to find tourist souvenirs made from illegally harvested ivory, tortoise shells, feathers, fur, bones, skins or other products originating from endangered species. The sale of these products not only puts many species at risk of extinction, but also supports criminal activity. Wildlife trafficking also contributes to global health problems because diseases such as avian influenza, Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS), Ebola and tuberculosis can cross species lines and jump from animals to humans.

The United States is the second-largest consumer market (after China) in terms of demand for illegal wildlife products. In light of this, the messages narrated by Dr. Jane Goodall have resonance not only for a global audience, but also for all of us closer to home.



Femblix T.
June 5, 2009

Femblix in Guinea writes:

Wild life arround the world are in danger as World Heritage committment over years of prediction focus on global protection against trafficking wildlife Tourism boards especially Washington Dc Natinonal Park no longer as it use to be and forest protection against wildlife use it as a medium for consumers undercover supporting criminals affection. today history bird flui problem of health protection not over 100 days of the year.That is wrong census of statistic data record. unProtection of wildlife can lead to diversity and others water and natural enviroment health protection of wildlife.

South Korea
June 5, 2009

Palgye in South Korea writes:

in my think of black market of illegal wildlife.

it`s not disappear, well, we permit? no,

how about, we change the purnishment to the illegal.

-arresting illegal cages in the cage at "open place""a (little) while"

yes, amnesty very angry to me. i understanding. but,

wildlifes alive like a us. just, we can`t understand

their`s language and habit. now,

may, buyers are may rich than salaryman. this kind of

people may, think, money? we making, yes, it`s can. but,

honor is very hard, to buy a money.

in my think of punishment is more effective to when

related honor.

cage? it`s so difficult in ours world. but, we do something

if, buyers are not buy the wildlife, poachers are not

capture the wildlife. of course we find another way, for

poachers(may be, they are, farmers who is common)

cage is so hard? how about, picketing at the busiest

quarters wears Kingkong`s costume, not face.

second is also hard? how to? a fine, imprisonment

and other ways are not good work. in my`s

my think is relating to honor also deliveries

and more buyers.

just my`s

New Jersey, USA
June 5, 2009

Rosemary in New Jersey writes:

Palgye and Femblix, you have some important comments to contribute to this conversation. All the world is responsible for illegal trafficking of wildlife -- not just "the usual suspects." We all have a hand in this somehow and we all must cooperate in order to end it and protect biological diversity on this earth that all of us inhabit and have in our custodial care.

Palgye makes an important point. Research such as that done by Jane Goodall has taught us that the creatures of the earth are sensate beings. Cruelty towards them is as bad as cruelty towards our fellow humans. We need to begin there, and we need to begin with the children.

And then, both odf you are correct, we need accountability. Code-breaking, law-breaking must have consequences or nothing will change.

I want to thank the State Department and Hillary Clinton especially for addressing this issue. It has always been important to me. I am happy to see that it is important to Secretary Clinton as well.

New York, USA
June 11, 2009

Ron in New York writes:

Up for Grabs.....

In the era of privatization and globalization, what commodities are not being trafficked?

August 14, 2009

Beth writes:

Thank you State Department and Dr. Jane Goodall for this powerful message to protect animals!


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