Criminal Nature: The Global Security Implications of Illegal Wildlife Trade 2013
In 2008, the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) embarked on an effort to fully understand the true nature of wildlife crime around the world. What we found was shocking, and we chronicled our findings in a report becoming one of the first organizations to assert that the illicit trade in wildlife could be a genuine and increasing threat to national and global security.
Since that time, the international trade in endangered species has only grown, making the threat all the more real and menacing. Elephants were killed for their ivory in record numbers in 2011 and 2012, and some rhinoceros subspecies have become extinct or are on the verge of extinction. Rangers are regularly killed by poachers, and some of the world’s poorest countries continue to see their wildlife decimated for the black market in wild animals and parts. Meanwhile, the profits realized from the illegal trade in wildlife have surged to levels once reserved for legally traded precious metals. Criminal and violent groups around the world have become the main actors exploiting this global industry.
As Criminal Nature makes clear, the national security implications of wildlife crime mean that governments must prioritize it as a top issue, which means better laws, better enforcement, and more leadership from some of the biggest national consumers of illegal animal parts, particularly the U.S., China, and the European Union.
Fortunately, we can make a difference. Both parts of the equation—supply and demand—need to be reduced, and IFAW is working with partners including the International Police Organization (Interpol) and non-governmental organizations around the world to strengthen the rules on the books, crack down on criminals, and educate the public about the importance of protecting vulnerable species.
The United States is the world’s second-biggest consumer of illegal wildlife products, which means we have a responsibility to step up and take action to prevent the extinction of elephants, rhinos, big cats, and other iconic species. Awareness is key, and you can help by sharing this information with your friends and family, thinking twice before you buy any product made from wildlife, and by contacting your elected officials and letting them know how much you care. Poaching has tragic consequences for some of our most treasured animals, but together we can bring them back from the brink and make the world a safer place for us all.