State Department Plans to Combat Wildlife Trafficking

Long lived and intelligent, the African grey parrot (Psittacus erithacus) is a popular pet—and a favorite target of wildlife traffickers, contributing to declines in wild populations. Photo by Keith Allison.At last November’s Partnership Meeting on Wildlife Trafficking hosted at the U.S. State Department, outgoing Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton noted that over the past few years, wildlife trafficking has become more organized, lucrative, widespread, and dangerous than ever before, rivaled in size only by trade in illegal arms and drugs. Clinton characterized protecting wildlife as a stewardship responsibility for this and future generations and an issue of national security, public health, and economic stability affecting countries around the world. She also observed that the United States is the second-largest destination market for illegally trafficked wildlife, and that conservation groups ultimately require the assistance of governments, civil society, businesses, scientists, and activists to help combat the growing problem.

To tackle the issue of wildlife trafficking, the State Department plans to pursue a four-part strategy which includes (1) developing a global consensus on wildlife protection and pressing forward with efforts to protect marine life and marine protected areas; (2) strengthening the ability of the United States to engage diplomatically on these and other scientific issues by deploying three new science envoys; (3) launching new initiatives to strengthen and expand enforcement areas; and (4) encouraging governments and organizations to join the Coalition Against Wildlife Trafficking (CAWT) in order to put forth a concerted global response and share information on poaching and illicit trade. Finally, Clinton asked the intelligence community to produce an assessment of the impact of large-scale wildlife trafficking on our security interests in order to more fully understand the players, interests, and forces aligned against us in this uphill battle.