No room in overhead storage bins for illegal wildlife trade
Yesterday, federal authorities reported that seven ivory tusks, a hippopotamus tusk and purses made from the skins of ostrich, stingray, crocodile and elephant were seized at Los Angeles International Airport from a 63-year-old woman traveling from Greece via Germany. The woman claimed they were a gift and was not arrested because she told authorities she was unaware the items were prohibited under the Endangered Species Act.
This seizure of wildlife items in LA is just one of dozens that have happened around the world recently. Elephants, tigers and other endangered wildlife are being killed at an alarming rate for trinkets, potions and fashion accessories, and consumers and governments need to take a stand against it.
Consumers need to make sure they are doing their due diligence when traveling abroad to ensure they are not purchasing and importing endangered animals. By refusing to buy these products, consumers will help reduce demand for them. If you’re on vacation and suspect you have seen an endangered species product, notify the local police, your hotel management, tour operator or the local tourist board--and warn your fellow travelers that they should never buy items made from endangered wildlife.
Additionally, governments—and by extension customs agents and wildlife law enforcement officers—must remain vigilant, be properly trained to identity problematic items and ensure that there is effective enforcement of regulations. These individuals are the front-line in stopping wildlife trafficking.
With that in mind, the efforts of the customs and enforcement officials in California should be applauded. In addition to this recent confiscation, earlier this year, federal and California law enforcement officials filed charges against several people who were caught during “Operation Cyberwild.” The online sting, run by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the California Department of Fish and Game, targeted individuals in Southern California and southwestern Nevada who were illegally selling wildlife through Internet-based marketplaces such as Craigslist.org.
This type of on-the-ground work is vital to putting a stop to the illegal wildlife trade once and for all. And while seizures are not a success in-of-themselves – the animals have already been killed – they are an opportunity to shine a spotlight on the problem, and potentially serve as education for unwitting purchasers, or a deterrent to illicit traders.
Animals are living beings sharing this planet, not souvenirs or gifts to be purchased. It is time for this rampant illegal trade to end.