International Illegal Trade in Wildlife: Threats and U.S. Policy
International Illegal Trade in Wildlife:
Threats and U.S. Policy
Updated August 22, 2008
Liana Sun Wyler
Analyst in International Crime and Narcotics
Foreign Affairs, Defense, and Trade Division
Pervaze A. Sheikh
Specialist in Natural Resources Policy
Resources, Science, and Industry Division
International Illegal Trade in Wildlife:
Threats and U.S. Policy
Global trade in illegal wildlife is a growing illicit economy, estimated to be
worth at least $5 billion and potentially in excess of $20 billion annually. Some of
the most lucrative illicit wildlife commodities include tiger parts, caviar, elephant
ivory, rhino horn, and exotic birds and reptiles. Demand for illegally obtained
wildlife is ubiquitous, and some suspect that illicit demand may be growing.
International wildlife smuggling may be of interest to Congress as it presents
several potential environmental and national security threats to the United States.
Threats to the environment include the potential loss of biodiversity, introduction of
invasive species into U.S. ecosystems, and transmission of disease through illegal
wildlife trade, including through illegal bushmeat trade. National security threats
include links between wildlife trafficking and organized crime and drug trafficking.
Some terrorist groups may also be seeking to finance their activities through illegal
wildlife trade, according to experts. Wildlife source and transit countries may be
especially prone to exploitation if known to have weak state capacity, poor law
enforcement, corrupt governments, and porous borders.
The U.S. government addresses illegal wildlife trade through several national
and international venues. Congress has passed numerous laws that regulate and
restrict certain types of wildlife imports and exports, including the Endangered
Species Act of 1973, the Lacey Act and Lacey Act Amendments of 1981, and several
species-specific conservation laws. These laws and others establish authorities and
guidelines for wildlife trade inspection at ports of entry, and wildlife crime law
enforcement and prosecution. Internationally, the United States is party to several
wildlife conservation treaties, including the United Nations Convention on
International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), which
serves as the primary vehicle for regulating wildlife trade. Foreign training and
assistance programs to combat illegal wildlife trade are also conducted by some
federal agencies, including the U.S. Department of State, which leads an international
initiative against wildlife trafficking.
The role of Congress in evaluating U.S. policy to combat wildlife trafficking is
broad. Potential issues for Congress include (1) determining funding levels for U.S.
wildlife trade inspection and investigation; (2) evaluating the effectiveness of U.S.
foreign aid to combat wildlife trafficking; (3) developing ways to encourage private-
sector involvement in regulating the wildlife trade; (4) using trade sanctions to
penalize foreign countries with weak enforcement of wildlife laws; (5) incorporating
wildlife trade provisions into free trade agreements; and (6) addressing the domestic
and international demand for illegal wildlife through public awareness campaigns
and non-governmental organization partnerships. This report focuses on the
international trade in terrestrial fauna, largely excluding trade in illegal plants,
including timber, and fish.
Quantifying U.S. Demand...................................3
Case Study: Tracing the African Ivory Trade.......................10
Threats to Biodiversity.....................................12
Case Study: Illegal Bushmeat Trade..........................17
Links to Organized Crime..................................19
Links to Drug Trafficking..................................19
Links to Terrorism........................................20
Links to Weak States and Political Instability...................24
Law Enforcement and Trade Inspection...........................25
Fish and Wildlife Service...................................25
Customs and Border Control................................27
Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service....................27
National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration..............28
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention....................28
Wildlife Crime Prosecution.....................................29
International Assistance and Cooperation..........................30
Coalition Against Wildlife Trafficking........................32
ASEAN Wildlife Enforcement Network.......................32
Issues for Congress...............................................33
Funding for Domestic and International Wildlife Trade Inspection
Foreign Assistance for Combating Wildlife Trafficking...............34
Free Trade Agreements........................................38
Public Awareness and Government-NGO Cooperation...............40
Appendix A. Selected Laws Related to the Wildlife Trade ................41
African Elephant Conservation Act...........................41
Alien Species Prevention and Enforcement Act of 1992...........41
Animal Health Protection Act...............................41
Antarctic Conservation Act of 1978..........................42
Antarctic Marine Living Resources Convention Act of 1984.......42
Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act........................42
Dog and Cat Protection Act of 2000..........................42
Endangered Species Act of 1973.............................42
Fisherman’s Protective Act of 1967 (Pelly Amendment)..........43
Fur Seal Act of 1966......................................43
Lacey Act Amendments of 1981.............................43
Marine Mammal Protection Act of 1972.......................44
Marine Turtle Conservation Act.............................44
Migratory Bird Treaty Act..................................44
Neotropical Migratory Bird Conservation Act..................44
Public Health Service Act..................................45
Rhinoceros and Tiger Conservation Act of 1994.................45
Wild Bird Conservation Act of 1992..........................45
Appendix B. Additional International Efforts to Combat Wildlife Crime.....46
North American Agreement on Environmental Cooperation.......46
World Customs Organization...............................46
Group of Eight...........................................46
UN Commission on Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice.......46
Lusaka Agreement and Task Force...........................47
Enforcement Action Plan to Combat Illegal Wildlife Trade........47
South Asia Wildlife Trade Initiative..........................47
List of Figures
Figure 1. Regions of Biodiversity and Selected Terrorist Safe Havens........23
Figure 2. Map of FWS Designated Ports and Number of Inspectors..........26
List of Tables
Table 1. Value of Legal Wildlife Imports and Refused Shipments into the
United States, 2000-2006........................................5
Table 2. Top 10 Countries from which Wildlife Imports were Refused Entry
into the United States, 2000-2004.................................6
Table 3. Selected Illicit Wildlife Trade and Estimated Retail Value...........8
Table 4. Statistics on the Activities of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Office of
International Illegal Trade in Wildlife:
Threats and U.S. Policy
Illegal wildlife trade involves the illicit procurement, transport, and distribution
— internationally and domestically — of animals, and animal parts and derivatives
thereof, in contravention of laws, foreign and domestic, and treaties. Illegal wildlife
trade ranges in scale from single-item, local bartering to multi-ton, commercial-sized
consignments shipped all over the world. Wildlife contraband may include live pets,
hunting trophies, fashion accessories, cultural artifacts, ingredients for traditional
medicines, wild meat for human consumption (or bushmeat), and other products.
Numerous reasons exist for wildlife trade regulation. Current international and
domestic laws often seek to prevent (1) the decline of species threatened or
potentially threatened with extinction; (2) the import of non-native species, which
could harm the receiving habitats; (3) the import of species that could transmit
diseases harmful to humans, animals, or plants; (4) the inhumane transport of
wildlife; and (5) the distortion of trade in otherwise legitimate wildlife products,
through unfair foreign pricing, government subsidies, and forms of illegal trade
Congress has sought to regulate wildlife trade for more than a century, enacting1
the first wildlife trade prohibitions under the Lacey Act in 1900. Congress also
regulates wildlife trade under freestanding provisions in the Lacey Act Amendments
of 1981, the Endangered Species Act of 1973, and other laws that prohibit the trade
in specific threatened species or specific animals that pose potential health and
disease risks.2 (See Appendix A.) Internationally, wildlife trade is regulated to
safeguard certain species threatened by over-exploitation and extinction. The primary
international treaty governing wildlife trade is the United Nations Convention on
International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), which
imposes an import- and export-control licensing system that restricts certain species
from international trade.3
1 16 U.S.C. §701, as amended.
2 Lacey Act Amendments of 1981 (P.L. 97-79, as amended); Endangered Species Act of
3 Congress implemented CITES under the Endangered Species Act of 1973. P.L. 96-159
designates the Secretary of the Interior, acting through the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
(FWS), as both the CITES Management and Scientific Authority. See CRS Report
RL32751, The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna
The primary motivation to engage in illegal wildlife trade appears to be
economic gain. Continued demand in many parts of the world for illegal wildlife
provides opportunities for criminals to turn profits along the supply chain. According
to international law enforcement officials, some of the most lucrative illicit wildlife
commodities include tiger parts, caviar, elephant ivory, rhino horn, and exotic birds
and reptiles. Due to its clandestine nature, the illegal trade is difficult to quantify with
any accuracy. Nevertheless, some estimate that it is worth at least $5 billion, and may
potentially total in excess of $20 billion annually.4 This would rank the illegal
wildlife trade as among the most lucrative illicit economies in the world, behind
illegal drugs and possibly human trafficking and arms trafficking.5
The 110th Congress has indicated interest in addressing illegal wildlife crime
through several oversight hearings on the subject.6 Potential issues for Congress
include (1) determining funding levels for U.S. wildlife trade inspection and
investigation; (2) evaluating the effectiveness of U.S. foreign aid to combat wildlife
trafficking; (3) developing ways to encourage private-sector involvement in
regulating the wildlife trade; (4) using trade sanctions to penalize foreign countries
with weak enforcement of wildlife laws; (5) incorporating wildlife trade provisions
into free trade agreements; and (6) addressing the domestic and international demand
for illegal wildlife through public awareness campaigns and non-governmental
organization partnerships. This report focuses on the international trade in terrestrial
fauna, largely excluding trade in illegal plants, including timber, and fish.
Global Demand. Demand for illegally obtained wildlife is ubiquitous. Some
estimate that countries and regions with the highest demand for legally obtained
wildlife include the United States, the People’s Republic of China, and the European
Union. Globally, demand for illegal wildlife is also increasing according to several
and Flora (CITES): Background and Issues, by Pervaze A. Sheikh and M. Lynne Corn.
4 Attempts to quantify the value of illegal wildlife trade have resulted in many estimates that
vary in size and scope. For a range of estimates on the size of the illegal wildlife trade see
U.S. Interagency Working Group, International Crime Threat Assessment Report
(December 2000); U.S. Department of State, Bureau of Oceans and International
Environment and Scientific Affairs, “Announcing the Formation of the Coalition Against
Wildlife Trafficking,” September 22, 2005; United Kingdom National Wildlife Crime Unit,
“Wildlife Crime,” at [http://www.nwcu.police.uk/pages/wildlifecrime/crime.asp]; and
Interpol, “Wildlife Crime,” at [http://www.interpol.int/Public/
5 U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), “ASEAN Wildlife Enforcement
Network,” undated brochure, at [http://usaid.eco-asia.org/files/fact_sheets/ASEAN_WEN
6 House Committee on Natural Resources, “Poaching American Security: Impacts of Illegal
Wildlife Trade,” Hearing, March 5, 2008; House Committee on Natural Resources,
Subcommittee on Fisheries, Wildlife, and Oceans, “Driftnet Fishing Moratorium and Shark
Conservation,” Hearing, April 16, 2008; Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation
Committee, “International Fisheries Management and Enforcement,” Hearing, April 3, 2008.
observers. Some attribute this partly to increasing numbers of wildlife species
regulated by CITES and other international and domestic wildlife protection laws.7
Others caution that estimates of demand may be increasing because of greater public
and governmental awareness of the issue in recent years, which has led to more
investigations into the scope and magnitude of wildlife crime.8 As a result, some
analysts question whether demand for illegal wildlife is necessarily growing, or
whether new data is simply capturing more information about a potentially stagnant
or declining source of demand.
Reasons behind the current demand for illegal wildlife and related products
appear to vary according to regions and cultures. In Asia, where analysts claim that
a substantial portion — possibly the largest in the world — of the global trade of
illegal wildlife takes place, demand is driven by the need for specific animal parts to
practice traditional Asian medicine, for human consumption, and as symbols of
wealth.9 Demand for illegal wildlife is reportedly increasing in Southeast Asia due
in part to the region’s economic boom and resulting affluence.10 In Africa, demand
for illegal wildlife is driven by bushmeat consumption in rural and urban areas. In
other regions, such as Europe and North America, analysts find that demand for
illegal wildlife includes a wide variety of products, such as luxury fashion items,
tourist souvenirs purchased abroad, and exotic pets, as well as traditional medicines
and wildlife meats for human consumption.11
Quantifying U.S. Demand. While no reliable estimates of U.S. demand for
illegal wildlife are publicly available, many analysts agree that demand for illegal
wildlife in the United States is likely to parallel U.S. demand for legal wildlife. If this
is the case, the United States may be a significant destination for illegal wildlife, and
the magnitude of the illegal trade may be increasing. The United States is estimated
to purchase nearly 20% of all legal wildlife and wildlife products on the market.12
Further, the value of U.S. legal wildlife trade has grown significantly in recent years
— from $1.2 billion in FY2000 to $2.8 billion in FY2007.13 (See Table 1.) In the
7 CITES covers approximately 5,000 species of animals and 28,000 species of plants.
8 Duncan Brack, “Combating International Environmental Crime,” Global Environmental
Change, vol. 12, no. 2 (July 2002), pp. 143-147.
9 Jolene Lin, “Tackling Southeast Asia’s Illegal Wildlife Trade,” Singapore Year Book of
International Law and Contributors, vol. 9 (2005), pp. 191-208.
10 Richard T. Corlett, “The Impact of Hunting on the Mammalian Fauna of Tropical Asian
Forests,” Biotropica, vol. 39, no. 3 (2007), pp. 292-303.
11 Maylynn Engler and Rob Perry-Jones, Opportunity or Threat: The Role of the European
Union in the Global Wildlife Trade (Brussels, Belgium: TRAFFIC Europe, 2007).
12 Randi Alacron, “The Convention on the International Trade of Endangered Species: The
Difficulty in Enforcing CITES and the United States Solution to Hindering the Trade in
Endangered Species,” N.Y. International Law Review, vol. 14, no. 2 (2001), pp. 105-108.
13 U.S. Department of the Interior, Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS), Office of Law
Enforcement, Annual Reports, FY2000-FY2006, at [http://www.fws.gov/le/AboutLE/
annual.htm]; and personal communication with FWS officials, February 20, 2008. Figures
are in constant FY2008 U.S. dollars.
same time period, the number of declared wildlife shipments has also grown — from
111,296 declared shipments in FY2000 to 179,323 in FY2007.14 According to the
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS), which is the lead U.S. agency for wildlife
trade law enforcement, illicit U.S. demand stems primarily from two sources: (1)
wildlife items for personal use, such as tourist souvenirs or exotic pets, and (2)
products for commercial use and products related to hunting (e.g., trophies).15
The globalization of trade and internationalization of the U.S. population and
culture have apparently exacerbated the illegal wildlife trade. For example,
immigrants from Central America have reportedly created a demand for sea turtle
eggs and meat that cannot be met legally.16 Further, reports indicate that demand for
traditional Asian medicines, once confined to parts of Asia, has gained new users in
the United States.17
15 This analysis is based on the types and quantities of wildlife shipments refused entry at
the U.S. border. Although the data may reflect the categories of illegal wildlife in demand
by consumers, the data may not accurately reflect the full magnitude of the illegal trade in
the United States. See U.S. Department of the Interior, FWS, Office of Law Enforcement,
Intelligence Unit, U.S. Illegal Wildlife Trade: LEMIS Data Analysis and Risk Assessment,
16 U.S. Department of the Interior, FWS, Office of Law Enforcement, Strategic Plan, 2006-
17 Richard Ellis, Tiger Bone and Rhino Horn: The Destruction of Wildlife for Traditional
Chinese Medicine (Washington, DC: Island Press, 2005).
Table 1. Value of Legal Wildlife Imports and Refused Shipments
into the United States, 2000-2006
Value of LegalaRefusedaPercentage
Year Trade Imports Illegal
2005 $2,300 n/a n/a
2006 $2,200 n/a n/a
2007 $2,800 n/a n/a
Source: U.S. Department of the Interior, FWS, Office of Law Enforcement, Intelligence Unit, U.S.
Illegal Wildlife Trade: LEMIS Data Analysis and Risk Assessment, November 2005.
Note: n/a = not available.
a. In constant FY2008 U.S. millions. The value of illegal trade in wildlife given in this table reflects
declared shipments that were refused entry at the U.S. border. It does not reflect the value of
undetected wildlife shipments entering the United States, which may differ considerably from
the values given in the table.
Source countries of wildlife exports, both legal and illegal, tend to include
countries across the developing world with rich biological diversity. Although
definitive data are unavailable, many analysts argue that biologically rich countries
with weak governance and poor law enforcement capacity may be especially
vulnerable as sources for illegal wildlife trade.18 While the United States is a source
country for some wildlife including bears, predatory birds, and reptiles, most analysts
indicate that U.S. wildlife is unlikely to play a large role in the illegal international
market. The United States, however, is a destination country for illegal wildlife
products. According to a report published by FWS, the top three suppliers to the
United States from which wildlife shipments were refused between 2000 and 2004,
included Mexico, Canada, and the People’s Republic of China.19 (See Table 2.)
These statistics, however, might be skewed because they are based only on shipments
refused at the border and ignore undetected shipments.
18 Dee Cook, Martin Roberts, and Jason Lowther, The International Wildlife Trade and
Organised Crime: A Review of the Evidence and the Role of the UK (United Kingdom:
World Wildlife Fund, 2002), p. 18.
19 FWS, U.S. Illegal Wildlife Trade: LEMIS Data Analysis and Risk Assessment.
Table 2. Top 10 Countries from which Wildlife Imports were
Refused Entry into the United States, 2000-2004
Shi pm e nt s a
Unknown b 524
Source: U.S. Department of Interior, FWS, Office of Law Enforcement, Intelligence Unit, U.S. Illegal
Wildlife Trade: LEMIS Data Analysis and Risk Assessment, November 2005.
a. Total refused shipments does not refer to the number of individual items to be shipped. As a result,
the actual number of wildlife items shipped is substantially higher than indicated in this table.
b. “Unknown” includes shipments found by FWS officials without packaging, labels, or supporting
documentation showing the country of export.
Causes. Numerous factors explain the persistence of the international black
market in wildlife. Observers suggest that one such factor is the high profits
associated with wildlife trafficking. Driven by a demand for wildlife products that
exceeds what the market can legally supply, the value of illegal wildlife products
continues to increase as consumers are willing to pay greater amounts. (See Table
3.) Thus, as a certain type of animal or wildlife product becomes more endangered
and rare, its price increases, along with the financial rewards for smugglers.20
In many developing countries, however, the income derived from illegal wildlife
poaching and trading is often vital for sustaining the livelihoods of impoverished
hunters and traders. Some observers say small-scale hunters and traders have few
alternatives for generating subsistence-level incomes.21 Additionally, some
20 Gavin Hayman and Duncan Brack, “International Environmental Crime: The Nature and
Control of Environmental Black Markets,” The Royal Institute of International Affairs
(2002), p. 114. See also Cook, Roberts, and Lowther, The International Wildlife Trade and
Organised Crime, p. 10.
21 See, for example, Emily Wax, “Poaching and Population Threatens India’s Tigers,”
indigenous peoples may consider hunting certain animals a fundamental part of their
culture, religion, or traditions. These considerations may differentiate poor hunters
and traders from international criminal syndicates involved in the trade, who engage
in the trade purely for profit.
Another factor is the perceived low risk of capture or penalties associated with
wildlife trafficking.22 Such a perception can be the consequence of limited
enforcement capabilities or willingness to punish such illegal behavior, due to a lack
of resources, infrastructure, expertise, or political corruption. Additionally, the
wildlife trade may be considered less risky than other high-value black markets,
including the drug trade, as the penalties associated with wildlife crime tend to be
substantially less severe than with other trafficking crimes. According to a series of
United Nations reports, powdered rhinoceros horn can be worth more than the
equivalent weight of cocaine or gold. Combined with the “low level of vigilance” and
“modest level of penalties” applied to wildlife crime cases, criminal entrepreneurs
are attracted by the prospect of high profits and low risks.23
Washington Post, October 16, 2007; “Trade in Wildlife: Just Let Them Get on with It,” The
Economist, May 29, 2008.
22 Hayman and Brack, “International Environmental Crime,” p. 144.
23 Report of the U.N. Secretary-General, “Progress Made in the Implementation of Economic
and Social Council Resolution 2001/12 on Illicit Trafficking in Protected Species of Wild
Flora and Fauna,” U.N. Economic and Social Council, Commission on Crime Preventionth
and Criminal Justice, 11 session, Vienna, Austria, February 26, 2002, p. 6; Report of the
U.N. Secretary-General, “Illicit Trafficking in Protected Species of Wild Flora and Fauna
and Illicit Access to Genetic Resources,” U.N. Economic and Social Council, Commissionth
on Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice, 12 session, Vienna, Austria, March 4, 2003, p.
Table 3. Selected Illicit Wildlife Trade and Estimated Retail Value
WildlifeEstimated Retail Value
Elephants$121-$900 per kilogram of ivory
Rhinos$945-$50,000 per kilogram of rhino horn
Tibetan$1,200-$20,000 per shatoosh shawl
Big Cats$1,300-$20,000 per tiger, snow leopard, or jaguar skin; $3,300-
$7,000 per set of tiger bones
Bears$250-$8,500 per gallbladder
Sturgeon$4,450-$6,000 per kilogram of caviar
Reptiles and$30,000 per oenpelli python; $30,000 per komodo dragon;
Insects$5,000-$30,000 per plowshare tortoise; $15,000 per Chinese
(often live)alligator; $20,000 per monitor lizard; $20,000 per shingleback
skink; $8,500 per pair of birdwing butterflies
Exotic Birds$10,000 per black palm cockatoo egg ($25,000-$80,000 per
(often live)mature breeding pair); $5,000-$12,000 per hyacinth macaw;
$60,000-$90,000 per lear macaw; $20,000 per Mongolian falcon
Great Apes$50,000 per Orangutan
Sources: Compiled from U.S. government agencies, international organizations, non-governmental
organizations, and media sources.
Pathways. Illicit wildlife trade uses complex distribution networks connecting
raw material from source states and producers of wildlife products to customers.24
Observers have yet to identify a distinct criminal profile that describes wildlife
poachers and traffickers.25 Illicit wildlife trade networks can involve a combination
of any of the following: (1) village hunters, who trade small wildlife as a source of
subsistence cash income or who kill some wildlife to protect their people and crops
from attacks; (2) wildlife experts; (3) criminal entities, sometimes including
terrorists, rebels, drug traffickers, and others, able to evade detection, and transport
and secure the products, as well as launder the proceeds; (4) legitimate businesses
serving as a front for the trade; (5) corrupt government officials to facilitate import
and export; and (6) consumers willing to pay for the contraband.
24 See, for example, Greg Warchol, Linda Zupan, and Willie Clack, “Transnational
Criminality: An Analysis of the Illegal Wildlife Market in Southern Africa,” International
Criminal Justice Review, vol. 13, no. 1 (2003), p. 7; Lin, “Tackling Southeast Asia’s Illegal
Wildlife Trade,” p. 198; and Hayman and Brack, “International Environmental Crime.”
25 Warchol, Zupan, and Clack, ibid, p. 24; Hayman and Brack, “International Environmental
Crime,” p. 7.
Various combinations of these actors conspire to exploit a variety of trafficking
pathways, which appear to be growing as globalization has improved the ease of
travel, transport, transactions, and other cross-border barriers that previously limited
wildlife trade. The magnitude of highly organized criminal syndicates’ role in
wildlife trafficking is subject to debate. Although little is certain about wildlife
traffickers, anecdotal evidence indicates that suppliers have historically tended to
work in small, but well-organized groups.26 Organized criminal syndicates, by
contrast, while likely to be participating in the trade of certain, high-value wildlife
commodities — including caviar, traditional Asian medicine, ivory, and reptile skins
— are not necessarily operating in all segments of the illegal wildlife trade.27
Some observers, including officials from FWS and Interpol, have identified a
growth in the scope, sophistication, and organization of wildlife crime in recent
years. According to one FWS report, investigations increasingly involve “multiple
suspects in multiple locations committing multiple felonies.”28 Traffickers are
reportedly connected globally to suppliers of exotic animals in developing countries;
consumers at upscale art galleries; safari operators guiding hunters to illegal animal
trophies; and international and interstate networks of wildlife exporters, taxidermists,
and wildlife retailers.
In the process of trafficking live animals and wildlife products, contents are
often smuggled through three primary methods: (1) hidden in secret compartments
of luggage, shipping containers, or clothing; (2) mis-declared on customs forms and
trade permits by fraudulently identifying look-alike, non-protected species, changing
the declared number of items shipped, changing the declared value of items, or
declaring wild species as captive-bred species; or (3) trafficked using forged or stolen
trade permits to give the false impression that the contents are being legitimately
traded.29 In other cases, observers have also found live animals and wildlife products
trafficked using common delivery services (e.g. postal services, Fedex, DHL, and
others) as well as diplomatic luggage not subject to scrutiny. Additional potential
areas of market growth include the Internet, where traders are reportedly using chat
rooms and auction websites, such as eBay, to engage in illicit wildlife sales.30
26 See, for example, Warchol, Zupan, and Clack, ibid.
27 Report of the U.N. Secretary-General (2003), p. 10; and U.S. Interagency Working Group,
International Crime Threat Assessment.
28 FWS, Office of Law Enforcement, Strategic Plan, 2006-2010, p. 7.
29 Cook, Roberts, and Lowther, The International Wildlife Trade and Organised Crime, pp.
30 International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW), “Caught in the Web: Wildlife Trade on
the Internet,” 2005, at [http://www.ifaw.org/ifaw/dfiles/file_562.pdf].
Case Study: Tracing the African Ivory Trade
The African elephant population has dwindled from roughly 1.2 million in the
commercial elephant ivory trade; most trade in elephant ivory today remains illegal.32
Widely hailed as a success by many observers, the 1989 ban resulted in a near-
disappearance of the illegal elephant ivory market. In the past several years, however,
many analysts are concerned that the trade has rekindled — primarily driven by a
surging demand for ivory jewelry, or other symbols of wealth in Japan, the People’s
Republic of China, and several other countries in Asia. Between August 2005 and
August 2006, authorities across the world seized more than 26 metric tons of illegally
trafficked elephant ivory.33
The price of wholesale elephant ivory has reportedly skyrocketed from
approximately $100 per kilogram in the late 1990s, to $200 per kilogram by 2004,
to as much as $900 per kilogram today.34 Based on a TRAFFIC study of 12,400
elephant ivory tusk seizures since the ivory ban, seizures are growing in both
frequency and size.35 On average, there are reportedly three seizures of ivory tusks
each day worldwide, which can range in scale from a few tourist trinkets to six-ton,
commercial consignments. Many observers suggest that the larger, commercial-sized
shipments often use sophisticated means to evade law enforcement authorities.
31 International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN), African
Elephant Status Report 2007: An Update from the African Elephant Database, Occasional
Paper Series of the IUCN Species Survival Commission, no. 33 (2007). According to the
IUCN, primary reasons for the elephant population’s decline include habitat loss and
fragmentation, human-elephant conflict, and poaching for elephant meat and ivory.
International trade in Asian elephant ivory is also illegal under CITES.
32 Under CITES, ivory from southern African elephants from Botswana, Namibia,
Zimbabwe, and South Africa is allowed to be traded. Most recently, in 2007, CITES
approved a second auction of 60 tons of government-stockpiled elephant ivory from
Botswana, Namibia, and South Africa; CITES has yet to decide when this second auction
will take place and to which countries it will be sold.
33 “CITES Permits 60 Tons of Elephant Ivory to Be Sold,” Environmental News Service,
June 4, 2007.
34 The price of ivory may vary significantly, depending on its size, quality, and type.
Additionally, experts highlight distinctions between forest elephant tusks and savannah
elephant tusks; the forest elephant tusk is known to be more desirable for its pinkish hue and
density, which makes it preferable for carving. See, for example, Esmond Martin and Daniel
Stiles, “U.S. Exposed as Leading Ivory Market,” Report prepared for Care for the Wild
International, June 5, 2007.
35 TRAFFIC, “Monitoring of Illegal Trade in Ivory and Other Elephant Specimens,”
Fourteenth Meeting of the Conference of the Parties, June 3, 2007, at [http://www.cites.org/
eng/cop/14/doc/E14-53-2.pdf]. The study reports that the number of “big seizures,” defined
as seizures involving more than 1 metric ton of ivory, grew from 17, between 1989 through
1997, to 32, between 1998 through 2006. In 2002, Singapore officials confiscated a single
shipment of more than 6 tons of illicit ivory — the largest seizure since the 1989 ban.
Experts generally contend that elephants from central Africa are the primary
targets of poachers today, with additional poaching hotspots surfacing around
Zimbabwe, Tanzania, and Zambia.36 Based on an analysis of elephant product seizure
data from 1998 to 2006, the most heavily implicated ivory trading countries include
Cameroon, the People’s Republic of China, the Democratic Republic of Congo, and
Nigeria.37 U.S. and international law enforcement officials also indicate that highly
organized cross-border poachers from Sudan and Somalia are poaching elephant
populations in Chad and Kenya.38 Analysts suspect that large-scale ivory trafficking
involves transnational crime syndicates, which are located in African source
countries and along transit routes through countries that include Tanzania, Djibouti,
United Arab Emirates, Hong Kong, Macao, Philippines, and Singapore.39
Due to the clandestine nature of the activity, analysts have difficulty identifying
specific pathways of illicit wildlife trade. However, one documented case of elephant
ivory trafficking, which law enforcement officials clandestinely monitored, provides
some insight into how the illicit trade in African elephant ivory operates. This case
also highlights the often circuitous pathways that illicit shipments travel to avoid
detection: In 2006, Taiwanese authorities confiscated more than five metric tons of
elephant ivory over a three-day period, concealed in shipping cargo. Shipping
documents indicated that the illegal consignment originated in Tanzania and was
destined for the Philippines. After departing from Tanzania, the ivory transited
through Malaysia and into Singapore, where the cargo remained for some time. The
shipment then departed for the Philippines but was re-routed to Taiwan. From
Taiwan, the consignment arrived in the Philippines, but, without being offloaded,
returned to Taiwan. As the ivory was about to return to the Philippines — with
shipping documents identifying a different importer than when the shipment was
originally sent to the Philippines — Taiwanese authorities confiscated the
contraband. Shortly after the seizure, however, the five tons of ivory disappeared
36 According to IUCN, the distribution of African elephants vary across western, central,
southern, and eastern Africa. Southern Africa accounts for approximately 39% of the total
species’ known population, Central Africa accounts for 29%, East Africa accounts for 26%,
and West Africa accounts for 5%. The accuracy of the population estimates also varies
across the continent, with estimates in conflict zones or countries emerging from conflict
being especially limited. See Nigel Hunter, Esmond Martin, and Tom Milliken,
“Determining The Number of Elephants Required to Supply Current Unregulated Ivory
Markets in Africa and Asia,” Pachyderm, no. 36 (January-June 2004), pp. 116-128; and
IUCN, African Elephant Status Report 2007.
37 TRAFFIC, “Monitoring of Illegal Trade in Ivory and Other Elephant Specimens.”
Thailand is also a heavily-implicated elephant ivory trading country, but some of its ivory
trade includes Asian elephant ivory as well.
38 See, for example, “Sudan is ‘Centre of Ivory Trade,’” BBC News, March 14, 2005; and
Esmond Martin, “Large Quantities of Illegal Ivory for Sale in Sudan,” Report for Care for
the Wild International, March 14, 2005. Some 75% of the ivory is reportedly bought by
Chinese customers, many of whom are working in Sudan in the oil industry.
39 Martin, “Large Quantities of Illegal Ivory for Sale in Sudan”; and “Illegal Ivory Seized
in Taiwan,” World Wildlife Fund, July 7, 2006; also based on CRS discussions with Interpol
law enforcement officials familiar with the case in 2007.
from a storage warehouse contracted by Philippine customs authorities while the case
remained under further investigation.40
The illegal wildlife trade can affect the natural resources and environment of
importing and exporting countries. The potential environmental harm of the illegal
wildlife trade include (1) reducing biodiversity, (2) disrupting ecosystems by
introducing non-native species, and (3) and transmitting disease.
Threats to Biodiversity. Observers report that the illegal wildlife trade may
directly contribute to the decline of some species. In addition, others report that the
illegal wildlife trade combines with habitat loss or alteration to contribute to species
decline. The actual extinction of species as a result solely of trade is not widely
documented in the literature,41 although exploitation combined with habitat loss and42
alteration, is linked to significant declines in several species. Some observers, for
example, claim that while great apes make up less than 1% of the bushmeat trade in
West and Central Africa, this rate of harvest, combined with habitat loss and
alteration, has led to very severe population declines; if this trend is unchecked,43
extinction is likely. Species that are currently in decline due primarily to
exploitation for trade are species that are rare or have historically low population
levels. For example, some have attributed sharp declines in three rare species of
tropical Asian bears to the illegal trade in bear parts, especially bear gallbladders, for44
use in traditional Asian medicine.
Insufficient data and a lack of understanding of how the trade affects wildlife
populations limit current knowledge of the impact of illegal wildlife trade on
biodiversity. A study seeking to measure the impact of the trade on wild populations
of amphibians and reptiles, for example, was inconclusive because the authors were
unable to obtain comprehensive data on the actual amount of wildlife traded through
licit and illicit channels, as well as the sustainable harvest rate of species in the
40 Samuel Wasser et al., “Using DNA to Track the Origin of the Largest Ivory Seizure Since
the 1989 Trade Ban,” Proceedings of the National Academy of Science of the United States
of America vol. 104, no. 10 (March 6, 2007), at [http://depts.washington.edu/conserv/
41 One possible explanation might be that as a species becomes depleted and rare, the costs
of finding and harvesting individuals becomes prohibitive; species are likely to become
extinct economically before they become extinct biologically.
42 Steven Broad et al., The Nature and Extent of Legal and Illegal Trade in Wildlife.
43 See Evan Bowen-Jones and Stephanie Pendry, “The Threats to Primates and Other
Mammals from the Bushmeat Trade in Africa and How This Could Be Diminished,” Oryx,
vol. 33, no. 3 (1999), pp. 233-247.
44 Ellis, Tiger Bone and Rhino Horn.
wild.45 Further, research remains incomplete in understanding how illegal wildlife
trade could indirectly affect ecosystems, when species important to the functioning
of the ecosystem are depleted. Some analysts suggest that the illegal harvesting of
wildlife could indirectly affect ecosystems when species important to the functioning
of the ecosystem are reduced.46
Invasive Species.47 Illegal wildlife trade may introduce harmful, non-native
species that could disrupt ecosystems. Non-native species can affect human, animal,48
and plant health, causing considerable economic and environmental damage. Many
non-native species that were introduced to the United States came initially through49
legal channels, some of them through the pet trade. Such species are often banned
from import only after government officials find documented evidence of a non-50
native species’ threat to humans, agriculture, or ecosystems. Some banned species,
however, still enter the country illegally through trade. Chinese mitten crabs, for
example, banned under the Lacey Act, continue to be smuggled into the United States
and Europe for consumption. Chinese mitten crabs are harmful to the environment
if released; they damage riverbanks by their burrowing and clog drainage systems.
The impact of non-native species is also considered a contributing factor for
listing indigenous species as endangered or threatened. Congress identified non-
native species as the second-leading contributing factor, after habitat loss and
alteration, for listings under the Endangered Species Act of 1973, affecting nearly51
half of all threatened and endangered native species. Non-native species may out-
compete native species for prey, transmit diseases to native species, and alter native
ecosystems. For example, the Burmese python is a non-native species brought
45 Martin Schlaepfer et al., “Challenges in Evaluating the Impact of the Trade in Amphibians
and Reptiles on Wild Populations,” BioScience, vol. 55, no. 3 (2005), pp. 256-264.
46 In some tropical forests in Africa and Asia, for example, the loss of some mammals may
slow vegetation recovery because of the dependence on mammals as seed dispersers and
pollenators. See Richard T. Corlett, “Frugivory and Seed Dispersal in Degraded Tropical
East Asian Landscapes,” in D.J. Levey et al., eds., Seed Dispersal and Frugivory: Ecology,
Evolution, and Conservation (Wallingford, UK: CABI Publishing, 2002), pp. 451-465.
47 For more on harmful non-native species, see CRS Report RL30123, Invasive Non-Native
Species: Background and Issues for Congress, by M. Lynne Corn et al.
48 One study estimates the annual economic damage of non-native species in the United
States to be approximately $123 billion. See David Pimentel, Lori Lach, Rodolfo Zuniga,
and Doug Morrison, “Environmental and Economic Costs of Nonindigenous Species in the
United States,” BioScience, vol. 50 (January 2000), pp. 53-65.
49 Of 212 non-native vertebrate species that established wild populations in the United
States, 48 species (23%) were originally imported as cage birds or other pets. U.S. Congress,
Office of Technology and Assessment, Harmful Non-Indigenous Species in the United
States, OTA-F-565 (Washington: GPO, 1993).
50 See discussion on the Lacey Act and the injurious species provisions in Appendix 1.
51 David Wilcove et al., “Quantifying Threats to Imperiled Species in the United States,”
BioScience, vol. 48 (1998), pp. 607-615.
illegally from Southeast Asia to parts of the United States as a pet.52 These pythons
consume large quantities of native prey and compete with alligators at the top of the
food chain.53 The entry of non-native species is reportedly increasing in the United
States and globally. In San Francisco Bay, a new non-native species now enters the
ecosystem every 14 weeks, on average, compared to an average of one every 55
weeks from 1851 to 1960.54
Disease. Another concern includes the potential entry and spread of animal-55
borne diseases through the illegal trade in wildlife. According to some, the ability
of human and other diseases to spread throughout the world is becoming increasingly
linked to the global nature of wildlife trade, coupled with the expansion of regional
and international transportation routes.56 Diseases transmitted through wildlife may
affect not only humans and result in outbreaks that cause social and economic harm,
but also threaten native wildlife and ecosystems.57 Indeed, some have stated that the
most dangerous emerging infectious diseases, in terms of total fatalities and fatality
rates, have come from wildlife.58 According to the General Accounting Office (now
Government Accountability Office), nearly 75% of emerging diseases reach humans
through animals.59 The link between the illegal wildlife trade and disease, however,
remains contested by some analysts as being mostly an unrealized threat. Indeed,
little is known about the extent to which illegally imported wildlife may carry60
52 Burmese pythons are illegal in some states (e.g., Illinois). In other states, it is illegal to
release them into the wild (e.g., Florida, where over 1,000 are estimated to be in the wild).
See Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, Notice of New Florida Rules and
Regulations Concerning Possession of Captive Wildlife, at
53 Defenders of Wildlife, “Broken Screens: The Regulations of Live Animal Imports into the
United States,” 2007, at [http://www.defenders.org/resources/publications/programs_and_
54 FWS, Office of Law Enforcement, Strategic Plan, 2006-2010.
55 U.S. Congress, Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works, Importation of
Exotic Species and their Impact on Public Health and Safety, hearing, 108th Cong., 1st sess.,
July 17, 2003, at [http://epw.senate.gov/hearing_statements.cfm?id=212889].
56 William B. Karesh, “Wildlife Trade and Global Disease Emergence,” Emerging Infectious
Diseases, vol. 11, no. 7 (2005), pp. 1000-1002.
57 William B. Karesh et al., “Implications of Wildlife Trade on the Movement of Avian
Influenza and other Infectious Diseases,” Journal of Wildlife Diseases, vol. 43, no. 3 (2007),
58 Peter Daszak, “Risky Behavior in the Ebola Zone,” Animal Conservation, vol. 9 (2006),
59 U.S. General Accounting Office, “West Nile Virus Outbreak, Lessons for Public Health
Preparedness,” September 2000, GAO/HEHS-00-180, p. 68.
60 Some examples include a psittacosis infection in custom officers in Belgium after being
exposed to illegally imported parakeets, and an avian influenza virus carried by crested
hawk eagles smuggled into Europe. Bruno B. Chomel, “Wildlife, Exotic Pets, and Emerging
Several countries have reported disease outbreaks caused by wildlife trade.
However, most documented disease outbreaks linked to wildlife trade involve
imports and exports of legal wildlife. After an outbreak, the suspected wildlife might
be banned from import, effectively making its trade illegal in the affected country.
In the United States, diseases from imported wildlife have infected or threaten native
species, livestock, and humans. Some examples include the following:
!Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS): The SARS virus
can infect wildlife and humans. Experts suspect that SARS
originated in the People’s Republic of China, where SARS-infected
civets, a variety of wild cat common in the Chinese wildlife trade,
came in contact with humans.61 Although civets remain legally
traded in China, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
(CDC) banned civet imports into the United States.
!Heartwater Disease: Heartwater is a disease of cattle, sheep, and
goats, and can cause mortality rates of 60% in cattle and up to 100%
in sheep.62 African tortoise ticks that reside on some imported snakes
and tortoises carry this disease. The U.S. Department of Agriculture
(USDA) banned the import and interstate commerce of three types
of African tortoises because African ticks carrying heartwater were
found on them.
!Avian Influenza: Highly pathogenic avian influenza virus (H5N1)
can infect humans through poultry-human interactions. Its natural
reservoir is wild birds, but it can be transmitted through poultry as
well. Avian flu has been common in live bird markets and can be63
disseminated through wildlife trade. CDC has banned poultry and
poultry products from bird flu source countries.
!Monkeypox: Monkeypox infects wildlife commonly found in
Africa, and can spread to wildlife native to the United States and
humans. Monkeypox was introduced to the United States by legally
imported African rodents. The rodents transmitted the disease to
prairie dogs in a pet store. The prairie dogs were, in turn, the source
for transmitting the disease to humans.64 CDC has banned all
Zoonoses,” Emerging Infectious Diseases, vol. 13, no. 1 (2007), pp. 6-11.
61 Y. Guan et al., “Isolation and Characterization of Viruses Related to the SARS
Coronavirus from Animals in Southern China,” Science, vol. 302, no. 5643 (2003), pp. 276-
62 Center for Food Security and Public Health, Iowa State University, Heartwater, at
[ h t t p : / / www.cf sph.i ast a t e .edu/ Fact sheet s/ pdf s/ hear t wat er .pdf ] .
63 See CRS Report RL33795, Avian Influenza in Poultry and Wild Birds, by Jim Monke and
M. Lynne Corn.
64 In response to the outbreak, CDC banned the import of all African rodents into the United
African rodents from entering the United States, except under certain
Some have suggested that since many diseases are zoonotic (diseases that can
be passed from animals to humans), the wildlife trade might have bio-terrorism
implications. For example, imports of lightly regulated wildlife might be used to
carry a disease that could be transmitted to other animals or agricultural crops.
Another possibility might be intentionally importing and releasing ill animals to
spread a disease to humans. Zoonotic diseases, included plague, tularemia, and
hantavirus, have been used in weapons programs.65 The Japanese during the 1930s,
for example, used fleas to cause plague in China.66 Some have suggested that a
terrorist group with access to pathogens, but lacking dissemination technology, could
conceivably use animal vectors to transmit the disease.67 However, no open source
evidence is currently available to suggests that terrorists are planning attacks
involving the transmission of disease through illegal wildlife trade.
Congress is addressing zoonotic disease transmission through proposed
legislation that would add non-human primates (e.g., chimpanzees and apes) to the
list of prohibited wildlife species under the Lacey Act (S. 1498 and H.R. 2964).68
This legislation is directed toward the non-human primate pet trade and would make
it illegal to import, export, transport, sell, receive, acquire, or purchase (in interstate
or foreign commerce) non-human primates with exceptions (e.g., for science and
zoos). It would not make it illegal to possess a non-human primate. Some who
support this legislation cite the propensity of non-human primates to transmit disease
to, and inflict injury on humans and animals.69 Some others who oppose this
legislation contend that non-human primates kept as pets in the United States
States and prohibited the transportation, sale, distribution or release of prairie dogs and
African rodents that might have been carrying the disease. For more information on
monkeypox, see CRS Report RS21557 Monkeypox: Technical Background and Outbreak
Implications for Bioterrorism Preparedness, by Dana A. Shea, Frank Gottron, and Holly
65 Center for Non-Proliferation Studies, Monterey Institute of International Studies,
“Chemical and Biological Weapons Resource Page,” at [http://cns.miis.edu/research/cbw/p
67 See CRS Report RS21557, Monkeypox: Technical Background and Outbreak Implications
for Bioterrorism Preparedness.
68 S. 1498 was placed on the Senate Legislative Calendar in October 2007 and H.R. 2964
has had hearings held. This bill also contains technical amendments to help enforce the
69 Testimony of Gail Golab, Director of Animal Welfare Division, American Veterinary
Medical Association, House Natural Resources Committee, Subcommittee on Fisheries,th
Wildlife, and Oceans, Legislative Hearing on H.R. 2964 and H.R. 5534, hearing, 110
Cong., 2nd sess., March, 11, 2008.
generally do not carry disease and should not be considered a threat to the safety of
Case Study: Illegal Bushmeat Trade. Illegal bushmeat trade refers to the
harvesting of wildlife for consumption and its subsequent trafficking within or
outside source countries.71 Although many cultures around the world consume
wildlife meat, the term bushmeat commonly refers to wildlife hunted in African
forests. Bushmeat trade is considered illegal when imports occur in contravention of
CITES, national quarantine laws, and other laws than ban the trade of specific
animals.72 In Africa, this illegal trade is considered a threat to the diversity and
abundance of endangered and threatened animal species, and the ecosystems in which
they reside. Some are also concerned that illegal bushmeat trade could facilitate the
transmission of exotic diseases throughout the world.
Illegal bushmeat trade in Africa is driven primarily by economic gain and
subsistence, and is greatest in areas of West and Central Africa. The illegal bushmeat
trade is reportedly a significant, and sometimes primary, source of income in Africa,
generating an estimated $50 million annually.73 The bushmeat trade is a significant
source of protein for many communities in Africa, especially among the rural poor.
Bushmeat provides an affordable source of animal protein as well as income-74
generating opportunities. In some cases, bushmeat is preferred over domestic
sources of meat by Africans. It is estimated that between 1 and 3.4 million tons of
bushmeat are consumed annually in Africa, of which 60% is consumed in urban
centers, where demand is highest.75 Further, illegal bushmeat is sold primarily in
urban markets in some parts of Africa, where they generate greater profits than legal
bushmeat.76 The illegal bushmeat trade also satisfies a global demand, which includes
certain communities in the United States.
70 Testimony of Sian Evans, Director of the DuMond Conservancy for Primates and Tropical
Forests, House Natural Resources Committee, Subcommittee on Fisheries, Wildlife, andth
Oceans, Legislative Hearing on H.R. 2964 and H.R. 5534, hearing, 110 Cong., 2nd sess.,
March, 11, 2008.
71 See Elizabeth L. Bennett et al., “Hunting for Consensus: Reconciling Bushmeat Harvest,
Conservation, and Development Policy in West and Central Africa,” Conservation Biology,
vol. 21, no. 3 (2006), pp. 884-887.
72 Bushmeat Crisis Taskforce, Global Human Health Fact Sheet, October 2003.
74 Evan Bowen-Jones, “Bushmeat: Traditional Regulation or Adaptation to Market Forces,”
in Oldfield, ed., The Trade in Wildlife.
75 Zinta Zommers and David Macdonald, Wildlife Trade and Global Disease Emergence,
Office of Science and Innovation, Trade and Industry Division, 2006.
76 Emmanuel De Merode and Guy Cowlishaw, “Species Protection, the Changing Informal
Economy, and the Politics of Access to the Bushmeat Trade in the Democratic Republic of
Congo,” Conservation Biology, vol. 20, no. 4 (2006), pp. 1262-1271.
Entry of bushmeat into the United States is a concern because of its potential to
carry disease.77 This concern is exacerbated because the health of the animal from
which the bushmeat is derived is not documented and the meat is generally not
screened for diseases at the border.78 Bushmeat is associated with several diseases
that affect humans. The United States has experienced outbreaks from diseases such
as HIV/AIDS, which some suggest emerged in Africa through consuming primates
that carry the Simian Immunodeficiency Viruses (SIV);79 and monkeypox, which
originated from African rodents, commonly consumed as bushmeat and traded
globally. Other diseases that affect humans and are linked to bushmeat include the
Ebola hemorrhagic fever, which has been transmitted to bushmeat hunters who were
in contact with infected great apes; and the SARS coronavirus, which has been
associated with the international trade in small carnivores.80
CDC bans imports of certain animals, including African rodents, known to be
prominent in bushmeat trade and vectors of disease.81 In response to avian influenza,
CDC and USDA banned imports of birds and unprocessed bird products from
countries with the avian flu virus in domestic poultry. Other species that are known
to carry diseases (e.g., non-human primates and live bats) may require a permit from
CDC and other agencies for import into the United States.
The impact of wildlife smuggling has the potential to reach beyond
environmental threats. Numerous sources indicate that organized criminal syndicates,
insurgency groups, and military units are among the primary actors involved in large-
scale, commercial-sized wildlife trafficking. Limited anecdotal evidence also
indicates that some terrorist groups may be engaged in the wildlife smuggling trade
for monetary gain. Some observers claim that the participation of such actors in
wildlife trafficking can threaten the stability of countries, foster corruption, and
encourage the use of violence to protect the trade.82
77 Testimony of Marshall Jones, Deputy Director, FWS, in Senate Committee on
Environment and Public Works, Importation of Exotic Species and Their Impact on Public
Health and Safety.
78 Declared bushmeat shipments might be checked by FWS at the border, but there is no
requirements for quarantine to check bushmeat for disease. FWS inspectors are not trained
in disease detection. However, the USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service
(APHIS) may confiscate illegal bushmeat detected at the border, if suspected of carrying
disease that might affect livestock. If the bushmeat is suspected carrying a disease harmful
to humans, CDC is contacted.
79 Gao Feng et al., “Origin of HIV-1 in the Chimpanzee Pan Troglodytes Troglodytes,”
Nature, vol. 397 (1999), pp. 436-441.
80 Karesh, “Wildlife Trade and Global Disease Emergence,” pp. 1000-1002.
81 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, visited at [http://www.cdc.gov/ncidod/
monkeypox/animals.htm], February 23, 2008.
82 See, for example, Mara Zimmerman, “The Black Market for Wildlife: Combating
Transnational Organized Crime in the Illegal Wildlife Trade,” Vanderbilt Journal of
Links to Organized Crime. According to a series of U.N. studies on the
illicit traffic of wildlife, wildlife experts claim that Chinese, Japanese, Italian, and83
Russian organized crime syndicates are “heavily involved in illegal wildlife trade.”
While such claims do not suggest that organized crime syndicates are involved in all
forms of wildlife trafficking, the United Nations reports that syndicates are “strongly
present” in some sectors. Further, even when criminal syndicates are not controlling84
the trade, much of the trafficking is commonly described as “highly organized.”
East Asian Triad societies, such as the Wo Shing Wo group and 14K, as well
as the Japanese Yakuza, have reportedly smuggled elephant ivory, rhino horn, tigers,85
shark fin, abalone, and whale meat. The United Nations also reports that “no sector
of the illegal fauna and flora trade has been criminalized to the extent of that of
sturgeon and caviar.” Most of the caviar business is reportedly controlled by Russian
organized crime, which several analysts also claim is engaged in the poaching of86
tigers and bears. According to FWS, recent investigations into U.S. caviar trade
revealed that seven of the ten major importers on the East Coast had been illegally87
importing millions of dollars worth of caviar annually. Members of the Italian
Mafia, the former Medellin drug cartel in Colombia, and possibly additional groups
in Central Asia and Brazil reportedly have been involved in the illicit trafficking of
rare parrots or falcons.88 Anecdotal accounts also indicate that some organized89
groups are involved in both illegal wildlife and human trafficking.
Links to Drug Trafficking. A 2002 British study, commissioned by the
World Wildlife Fund and the World Conservation Union, found that key illicit drug
production and distribution countries that coincide with major source states for
endangered wildlife are areas where illicit wildlife trafficking has likely taken place.90
Transnational Law, vol. 36 (2003), pp. 1672-1673; and Greg Warchol, “The Transnational
Illegal Wildlife Trade,” Criminal Justice Studies, vol. 17, no. 1 (March 2004), p. 58.
83 Report of the U.N. Secretary-General (2002), p. 6; Report of the U.N. Secretary-General
(2003), pp. 9-12. See also Jonathan Kazmar, “The International Illegal Plant and Wildlife
Trade: Biological Suicide,” U.C. Davis Journal of International Law and Policy, vol. 6, no.
84 Report of the U.N. Secretary-General (2003), p. 9.
85 Report of the U.N. Secretary-General (2002), p. 6; Report of the U.N. Secretary-General
(2003) p. 11; Kazmar, “The International Illegal Plant and Wildlife Trade”; and Cook,
Roberts, and Lowther, The International Wildlife Trade and Organised Crime, p. 15.
86 Report of the U.N. Secretary-General (2002), p. 6; and Report of the U.N. Secretary-
General (2003), p. 11.
87 FWS, Office of Law Enforcement, Strategic Plan, 2006-2010, p. 7.
88 Report of the U.N. Secretary-General (2002), p. 6; Kazmar, “The International Illegal
Plant and Wildlife Trade”; and Report of the U.N. Secretary-General (2003), p. 12.
89 Testimony of Steven R. Galster, House Natural Resources Committee, “Poaching
American Security,” Hearing, March 5, 2008.
90 Cook, Roberts, and Lowther, The International Wildlife Trade and Organised Crime, p.
Anecdotal evidence indicates that illicit wildlife has been found to be smuggled along
the same routes as narcotics as a subsidiary trade for drug traffickers, especially in
Latin America. The United Nations reports that members of the former Cali drug
cartel in Colombia and Mexican drug dealers have also allegedly smuggled mixed
shipments of drugs and wildlife products into the United States.91 According to the
Brazilian National Network Against the Trafficking of Wild Animals (RENCTAS),
40% of an estimated 400 criminal rings smuggling animals were also involved in
other criminal activities, especially drug trafficking.92 The CITES Secretariat has also
reported that combinations of parrots and drugs have been smuggled together from
Cote d’Ivoire to Israel.93
Wildlife, both legal and illegal, are also used as the means to conceal illegal
drugs. In one famous case, U.S. Customs Service inspectors in Miami recovered 86
pounds of cocaine-filled condoms from Colombia, which had been inserted into 225
boa constrictor snakes.94 More recently, international law enforcement officials say
they have confiscated mixes of narcotics and illicit wildlife that range from elephant
tusks with hashish stuffed inside to exotic birds smuggled with methamphetamine
pills.95 Wildlife products are reportedly also used as a currency in exchange for drugs.
According to FWS officials, smugglers often trade illegal drugs for endangered
animals in cashless transfers that serve as a special form of money laundering. In
South Africa, street gangs reportedly provide highly prized, but illegal, catches of
abalone to Asian crime syndicates for methamphetamine.96
Links to Terrorism. There is limited publicly available evidence of terrorist
groups involved in wildlife trafficking. According to U.N. reports and Interpol
officials, some insurgent groups and possibly terrorist groups are reportedly engaged97
in illegal poaching for profit in several areas of Asia and Africa. The limited
anecdotal evidence indicates that terrorist groups may be engaged in illegal wildlife
smuggling for monetary gain, if sources of rich biodiversity are near their operating
arenas. Figure 1 shows noted regions of high biodiversity and their proximity to
selected zones of possible terrorist safe havens.98 Although not necessarily indicative
91 Report of the U.N. Secretary-General (2002), pp. 6-7.
92 “First National Report on the Traffic of Wild Animals,” RENCTAS, 2001, p. 53.
93 Report of the U.N. Secretary-General (2002), pp. 6-7.
94 “Organized Criminal Gangs Deal Wildlife and Drugs,” Environment News Service, June
95 Based on discussions with several Interpol law enforcement officials in 2007.
96 Mark Schoofs, “Traffic Jam: As Meth Trade Goes Global, South Africa Becomes a Hub
— Cape Town Gangs Barter Rare Shellfish for Drugs; Chinese, Russian Ties,” Wall Street
Journal, May 21, 2007.
97 Report of the U.N. Secretary-General (2002), p. 6.
98 Notably, the map is not indicative of zones where terrorist activity is necessarily occurring
of an existing relationship between terrorists and wildlife trafficking, the map
highlights the possibility of terrorist groups or other criminal entities in regions of
high biodiversity taking advantage of porous borders, weak states, and criminal
Some experts caution that terrorist involvement may be more of an exception
to the overall scope of wildlife trafficking, rather than indicative of an emerging trend
or pervasive characteristic of illegal wildlife trade. Other experts suggest that terrorist
groups may look to organized crime groups, some of which are known to traffic in
illegal wildlife, as models for financing terrorist activities.99 Both types of groups
benefit from generating clandestine sources of income in non-legal markets. Al
Qaeda, for example, has been allegedly involved in several forms of organized crime,
such as money laundering and credit card fraud, to fund its activities.100 Some experts
also suggest that the loosely-connected, cellular structure of some international
terrorist organizations today may lend itself to increased links between terrorism and
organized crime. Experts argue that as loosely connected terrorist cells are expected
to secure their own funding, organized crime may present itself as an attractive
Some law enforcement officials indicate that Somali elephant and rhino
poachers are now linked to at least one Somali warlord, who has provided safe haven
and other forms of protection to known Al Qaeda operatives.102 In Kaziranga, India,
two Islamic extremist groups with ties to Al Qaeda, Harakat ul-Jihad-I-
Islami/Bangladesh (HUJI-B) and Jamaatul Mujahedin Bangladesh (JMB), are
and where organized wildlife smugglers are necessarily operating.
99 See Louise I. Shelly and John T. Picarelli, “Methods Not Motives: Implications of the
Convergence of International Organized Crime and Terrorism,” Policy Practice and
Research, vol. 3, no. 4 (2002).
100 See Rohan Gunaratna, Inside Al Qaeda: Global Network of Terror (New York: Columbia
University Press, 2002).
101 Lin, “Tackling Southeast Asia’s Illegal Wildlife Trade.”
102 Somali warlords are generally not considered international terrorists. Interpol officials,
however, say wildlife poaching is linked to at least one known Somali warlord, allegedly
known to have protected Al Qaeda operatives allegedly involved in the 1998 Kenya and
Tanzania U.S. Embassy bombings and the 2002 Kenya hotel bombing. For a description of
terrorism activity linked to Somalis, see U.S. Department of State, Office of the Coordinator
for Counterterrorism, Country Report on Terrorism, April 30, 2007. Some Interpol officials
speculate that the poached wildlife could be used to finance Somali warlord activities, or
possibly even Al Qaeda terrorism activities; CRS has yet to find public evidence to support
these speculations. There remains some debate among analysts, however, regarding the level
of sufficient evidence linking Somali warlords to the terrorist suspects involved in the
bombings described above. For more of this debate, see CRS Report RL33911, Somalia:
Current Conditions and Prospects for a Lasting Peace, by Ted Dagne.
reportedly sponsoring elephant and rhino poaching for profit, according to several
103 “Poaching for Bin Laden,” The Guardian, May 5, 2007; Sharon Begley, “Extinction
Trade,” Newsweek, March 1, 2008. HUJI-B and JMB are designated as Foreign Terrorist
Organizations by the U.S. Department of State.
Figure 1. Regions of Biodiversity and Selected Terrorist Safe Havens
For “Potential Terrorist Safe Haven”: U.S. Department of State, Office of the Coordinator for Terrorism, Country Reports on Terrorism, Chapter 5: Terrorist Safe Havens, April 2007;
ngel Rabasa et al., Ungoverned Territories: Understanding and Reducing Terrorism Risks (Santa Monica, CA: Rand Corporation, 2007). For “Biodiversity Level”: Brian Groombridge
artin D. Jenkins, World Atlas of Biodiversity (Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 2002). For “Biodiversity Hotspot”: Conservation International, Biodiversity Hotspots, at
ersityhotspots.org], accessed February 19, 2008.
This map does not imply that terrorists are necessarily involved in wildlife trafficking where zones of high biodiversity and potential safe havens overlap. Additionally, it should be noted
the State Department and the Rand Corporation data differs on which regions are potential safe havens. Actual and potential locations identified by the State Department include Somalia;
rans-Sahara, including Mali, Mauritania, Niger, Algeria, and Chad; the Sulu/Sulawesi Seas Littoral, including the southern Philippines and Indonesia; Iraq, including northern Iraq; Lebanon;
n; Afghanistan and Pakistan, including the Afghanistan-Pakistan border; the Colombia border region; and the Tri-Border area, including Argentina, Brazil, and Paraguay. Locations
tified by Rand include the Pakistan-Afghanistan border, the Arabian Peninsula, the Sulawesi-Mindano arc, East Africa, West Africa, the Northern Caucasus, the Colombia-Venezuela border,
e Guatemala-Chiapas border.
Links to Weak States and Political Instability. Wildlife criminals may
seek to exploit countries with a weak capacity to govern, poor law enforcement, high104
government corruption, and porous borders. These country characteristics,
common to weak states in the developing world, are not only frequently linked to
drug trafficking, organized crime, and, on occasion, terrorism, but are also reportedly
linked to the illegal trade in wildlife. Analysts contend that weak states at any point
along wildlife trafficking routes — source countries, transit countries, and destination
countries — are especially attractive to wildlife criminals, who hope to operate in
these countries with impunity.
For example, several reports indicate that weak law enforcement and
uncontrolled borders in Southeast Asia — especially the border region between
Burma, Thailand, China, and Laos, which is also known as a significant drug
production and trafficking region — are contributing to the problem.105 Sun bears,
clouded leopards, Burmese pythons, monitor lizards, and other protected species are
reportedly available for sale in numerous markets and trading posts throughout
Southeast Asia. According to some observers, the lack of law enforcement along
these borders is contributing to the local extinction of several wildlife species.106
In rare instances, extensive cross-border, commercial poaching and trafficking
operations have reportedly been associated with political instability in certain
regions. This has been documented in several cases in Africa, where some conflicts
have been reportedly financed, in part, by the elephant ivory trade. As local elephant
populations decline, Sudanese and Somalis have also been known to stage heavily-
armed ivory raids across their borders into Kenya, Chad, and the Central African
Republic — using machine guns, rocket launchers, and other sophisticated weapons
not only to poach wildlife but to fight park rangers and other border guards they may
encounter. Rebel groups from Sudan, for example, would reportedly trade elephant
ivory, sometimes dubbed “conflict ivory,” for military weapons, and Somali troops
were once reportedly encouraged to poach ivory in lieu of receiving salaries.107
According to discussions with law enforcement officials and media reports, members
of the Sudanese Janjaweed militia are also poaching elephants in and around Chad’s108
Zakouma National Park. Other militia or insurgent groups that were allegedly
104 See, for example, R. Thomas Naylor, “The Underworld of Ivory,” Crime, Law, and
Social Change, vol. 42, no. 4-5 (January 2005), p. 261.
105 Chris R. Shepherd and Vincent Nijman, “The Trade in Bear Parts from Myanmar: An
Illustration of the Ineffectiveness of Enforcement of International Wildlife Trade
Regulations,” Biodiversity Conservation, vol. 17, no. 1 (January 2008), p. 35.
106 “Southeast Asia’s Illegal Wildlife Trade,” National Public Radio, November 3-5, 2003,
107 Naylor, “The Underworld of Ivory,” pp. 261-277; Warchol, “The Transnational Illegal
Wildlife Trade,” p. 58; Warchol, Zupan, and Clack, “Transnational Criminality: An
Analysis of the Illegal Wildlife Market in Southern Africa,” p. 5; and John Nielsen,
“Confronting Central Africa’s Poaching Crisis,” National Public Radio, January 12, 2003,
108 See also “DNA Test Pinpoints Elephant Poaching, Aiding Conservation: Genetic
involved in wildlife trafficking for profit include Mozambique’s Mozambican
National Resistance (RENAMO) and Angola’s National Union for the Total
Independence of Angola (UNITA).109
Law Enforcement and Trade Inspection
Several agencies are responsible for law enforcement and trade inspection
involving wildlife trade, including the Department of Homeland Security’s Customs
and Border Patrol (CBP) and the Department of the Interior’s Fish and Wildlife
Service (FWS). CBP maintains the primary authority to inspect goods imported into
the United States and vessels carrying goods into U.S. ports of entry. If wildlife
goods are declared they are generally referred to FWS, which is the primary agency
responsible for inspecting wildlife shipments. Other agencies also have some
authorities to inspect wildlife trade, including the Department of Commerce’s
National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the Department of
Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS), and the
Department of Health and Human Services’ Centers for Disease Control and
Prevention (CDC). Inspectors from these agencies may not be trained to handle all
types of wildlife imports; as a result, when inspectors from one agency need guidance
or clarification on a shipment, other relevant agencies are contacted.
Fish and Wildlife Service. FWS is responsible for monitoring and detecting
illegal trade in endangered species, invasive species, and other statutorily regulated
wildlife. Under the Endangered Species Act of 1973 and the Lacey Act and Lacey
Act Amendments of 1981, FWS has the authority to detain and inspect any
international shipment of wildlife, including items in baggage, parcels, or vehicles.
In 2007, FWS posted 114 uniformed wildlife inspectors at 38 ports of entry across
the country — at 18 designated ports, through which most wildlife traffic is required
to pass, border ports, and a handful of other ports.110 (See Figure 2.) Ports are
designated for importing and exporting wildlife to consolidate shipments for
inspectors. Under certain circumstances, some wildlife shipments may travel through
non-designated ports.111 A designated port, however, must be used for importing
wildlife that requires a permit under certain federal regulations that cover threatened
Evidence Could Prove Key in Halting the Illegal Slaughter of Africa’s Elephants for their
Ivory Tusks,” Scientific American, February 26, 2007; and “War and Politics Threaten
Congo’s Endangered Rhinos,” The New York Times, March 28, 2005.
109 In addition to ivory, RENAMO reportedly ran rackets in rhino horn, rare hardwoods,
stolen gemstones, and counterfeit currency. See Naylor, “The Underworld of Ivory,” p. 278.
110 Most of the posted wildlife inspectors are located at the Los Angeles, New York, New
Jersey, and Miami ports of entry. FWS, U.S. Illegal Wildlife Trade: LEMIS Data Analysis
and Risk Assessment.
111 FWS, Importing and Exporting Your Commercial Wildlife Shipment, at
[ h t t p : / / www.f ws.go v/ l e / Imp Exp/ CommW i l d l i f eImpor t Expor t .ht m] .
and endangered species, marine mammals, and CITES listed species, among others.
See Table 4 for changes in the quantity and activity of FWS inspectors from 2000
FWS reportedly inspects approximately 25% of declared wildlife shipments at
the U.S. border.112 FWS does not inspect undeclared shipments except during
planned investigations or seasonal periods when certain illegally obtained wildlife
have a higher probability of being imported into the United States. Undeclared
shipments may also be targeted for inspection if FWS has reason to suspect that the
shipment could be contraband. Shipments containing wildlife that are in transit
through the United States are generally not required to be declared to FWS. However,
in-transit shipments must comply with foreign and domestic wildlife laws, including
the humane transport of live animals. Certain species listed on endangered or
threatened species lists under the Endangered Species Act of 1973, migratory birds,
marine mammals, or injurious species listed under the Lacey Act and Lacey Act
Amendments of 1981, among others, may not transit within the United States.
Figure 2. Map of FWS Designated Ports and Number of Inspectors
Source: Adapted from FWS information provided to CRS, February 21, 2008.
112 Interview with Tom Tidwell, Senior Special Agent, FWS, November 2007.
Table 4. Statistics on the Activities of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife
Office of Law Enforcement
FWS Office of Law
Enacted Budget Number ofNumber ofNumber ofNumber of
(in constant U.S.SpecialaWildlifeaInvestigativeDeclaredbStaffed Ports
FY2000 $48.1 201 90 9,105 111,296 29
FY2001 $59.2 224 90 8,681 120,004 30
FY2002 $39.2 238 88 8,412 123,720 30
FY2003 $59.4 229 94 10,369 139,541 31
FY2004 $60.1 231 95 10,536 157,617 31
FY2005 $60.4 218 105 13,980 172,404 35
FY2006 $58.7 202 112 15,128 183,247 38
Source: FWS, Office of Law Enforcement, Annual Reports, FY2000-FY2006, at
[http://www.fws.gov/le/AboutLE/annual.htm], visited February 5, 2008.
a. Number lists end-of-year size of forces.
b. The number of declared shipments does not reflect the actual number of individual items traded.
For example, a shipment with 1,000 geckos or 10 geckos would be counted as one shipment.
In addition, this statistic does not take into account the amount of wildlife trade that is not
declared to U.S. officials. As a result, the number of wildlife items shipped per year is likely to
be higher than indicated in this table.
Customs and Border Control. CBP’s mission is to protect U.S. borders
from terrorism, human and drug smuggling, illegal migration, and agricultural pests
while facilitating the flow of legitimate travel and trade. CBP addresses the illegal
wildlife trade directly by preventing the entry of exotic plant and animal pests, and
any other emerging threats in agro- and bio-terrorism from entering the country. CBP
collaborates with other agencies, including FWS, when they find suspicious wildlife
shipments. CBP is also considered by U.S. officials as the first line of defense against
import of undeclared illegal wildlife shipments.
Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service. The U.S. Department of
Agriculture’s APHIS regulates the imports of some animal and animal products that
could harm agriculture or livestock. Among its responsibilities, APHIS serves to
facilitate safe international trade, monitor the health of animals presented at the
border, and regulate the import and export of animals and animal products. APHIS113
enforces provisions of the Animal Health Protection Act, which give APHIS the
authority to prohibit or restrict the importation of any animal if it will prevent a pest
or disease from affecting agriculture or livestock. Further, APHIS has the authority
113 P.L. 100-478, as amended.
to prosecute individuals who smuggle any animals or animal products into the
country. APHIS works with FWS and CBP to monitor agricultural imports at the
border and has a dedicated team for investigating the illegal wildlife trade.114
In response to the growing volume of smuggled and improperly imported
agricultural products entering the United States, APHIS created the Smuggling
Intervention and Trade Compliance unit (SITC), a special anti-smuggling unit to
prevent the unlawful entry and distribution of prohibited agricultural commodities,
and products that may harbor harmful wildlife, including animal pests, diseases, and
invasive species.115 The unit routinely works with CBP agents during agricultural
anti-smuggling and cooperative interdiction efforts at air, land, and sea ports of entry.
National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. NOAA’s National
Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) enforces laws that protect and regulate the marine
resources of the United States. Some of these laws, such as the Magnuson-Stevens
Fishery Conservation and Management Act, regulate the trade and catch of marine116
organisms. NOAA Fisheries Service also enforces trade in CITES-regulated marine
species. NOAA’s Office of Law Enforcement uses special agents to patrol the sea,
conduct investigations, monitor fishing practices, inspect fish processing plants, and
review sales of wildlife products on the Internet. Some agents are also stationed at
the border to assist in the inspection of imports.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The Department of Health
and Human Services’ CDC takes the lead in protection against communicable human
diseases at the border. In recent years, CDC has banned certain wildlife imports to
prevent the introduction, transmission, and spread into the United States of specific
diseases from animals to humans, including monkeypox (African rodents), SARS
(civets), and the highly pathogenic avian influenza H5N1 (birds and bird products
from source countries).117 Under its delegated authority, CDC’s Division of Global
Migration and Quarantine is empowered to detain, medically examine, or
conditionally release individuals and wildlife suspected of carrying a communicable
disease. Not all diseases are quarantinable; zoonotic diseases that are, however,
include SARS and influenza, such as bird flu, that is causing or has the potential to
114 Under the Homeland Security Act of 2002 (P.L. 107-296), some of APHIS’ border
security responsibilities were transferred to the Department of Homeland Security. These
duties include border inspection of shipments and baggage containing plant, animal, and
agricultural products that could harbor pests and diseases. APHIS retains the responsibility
to create inspection policies and train inspection agents. The specific functions that were
transferred from APHIS to DHS are included in an agreement at [http://www.aphis.usda.
gov/ plant_health/moa_dhs/index.shtml ].
115 See U.S. Department of Agriculture, APHIS, “Smuggling Intervention and Trade
Compliance Program,” at [http://is.aphis.usda.gov/lpa/pubs/pub_smuggling.html].
116 16 U.S.C. §§1801-1882, as amended; P.L. 94-265, as amended.
117 CDC has the authority to prevent the spread of communicable diseases under the Public
Health Service Act (42 U.S.C. §201 et seq.).
cause a pandemic.118 CDC officials are not present at the border on a day-to-day
basis, but maintain quarantine stations located in Anchorage, Atlanta, Boston,
Chicago, Dallas, Detroit, El Paso, Honolulu, Houston, Los Angeles, Miami,
Minneapolis, New York, Newark, Philadelphia, San Diego, San Francisco, San Juan,
Seattle, and Washington, D.C.
Wildlife Crime Prosecution
The Department of Justice (DOJ) prosecutes individuals and organizations
charged with wildlife trafficking. The Environment and Natural Resources Division
(ENRD), within DOJ, is responsible for all environmental and natural resources-
related litigation, including wildlife crimes, filed on behalf of or against the United
States in federal courts.119 Investigations initiated by law enforcement agents from
FWS, NOAA, and other agencies related to the illegal wildlife trade are referred to
ENRD for prosecution.
Wildlife traffickers face charges from traditional wildlife trafficking statutes
such as the Lacey Act and the Endangered Species Act, but also from other statutes
that prohibit money laundering, smuggling, and conspiracy.120 One of the primary
statutes for prosecuting wildlife traffickers is the Lacey Act and Lacey Act
Amendments of 1981, which prohibits the (1) import, export, transport, selling,
receiving, acquiring, or purchase of any fish or wildlife already taken, possessed,
transported, or sold (2) in violation of state, federal, American Indian tribal, or
foreign laws or regulations that are fish- or wildlife-related.121 Violation of foreign
laws with respect to only fish and wildlife (the Act does not include foreign plants)
can trigger Lacey Act offenses. Under the Lacey Act, a defendant may be prosecuted
118 For full list of quarantinable diseases, see Executive Order 13295, “Revised List of
Quarantinable Communicable Diseases,”April 4, 2003; and “Executive Order: Amendment
to E.O. 13295 Relating to Certain Influenza Viruses and Quarantinable Communicable
Diseases,” April 1, 2005.
119 As of 2004, ENRD employed more than 400 attorneys to handle more than 10,000 cases
per year in all federal jurisdictions. Approximately 30 ENRD attorneys specialize in
prosecuting environmental crime cases. See Jim Rubin and Shata Stucky, “Fighting Black
Markets and Oily Water: The Department of Justice’s National Initiatives to Combat
Transnational Environmental Crime,” Sustainable Development Law and Policy, vol. 4
(2004), pp. 21-26.
120 Because illegal wildlife traffickers are often caught before violating the Lacey Act,
conspiracy is a way to charge the wrongdoers for committing a crime. The crime of
conspiracy occurs when “two or more persons conspire” to violate the Lacey Act. The
conspiracy offense can act as further arsenal against wildlife violators. In fact, charging an
individual with conspiracy may be considered a graver offense than the contemplated crime
and can lead to harsher penalties.
121 Some address the categories labeled above for violating the Lacey Act as the two steps
necessary for prosecution. See Testimony of Eileen Sobeck, Deputy Assistant Attorney
General, Environment and Natural Resources Division, U.S. Department of Justice, in U.S.
Congress, House Natural Resources Committee, Subcommittee on Fisheries, Wildlife, andthst
Oceans, Illegally Harvested Plants, hearing, 110 Cong., 1 sess., October 16, 2007.
if they did not violate the law in question, but knowingly, or in the exercise of due
care, should know, about the illegal nature of the wildlife or wildlife products.
Wildlife traffickers can also be penalized under the Endangered Species Act of
1973 which makes it unlawful for any person, subject to the jurisdiction of the United
States, to import, export, offer, sell in interstate or foreign commerce, or to receive,
carry, transport, or ship in interstate or foreign commerce in the course of a
commercial activity, any endangered or threatened species. This law also implements
CITES into law, and prescribes penalties for violations of CITES. Violations under
the Endangered Species Act of 1973 can occur without the defendant knowing which
species are listed under this law and without intending to violate the law.122
Other laws not directly related to wildlife can be used to prosecute wildlife
traffickers. For example, wildlife traffickers can be prosecuted as smugglers under
Title 18 of the U.S. Code. Violations such as a concealing contraband (e.g., illegal
wildlife) upon import, or knowingly receiving, concealing, buying, or selling
contraband, or facilitating these actions, might be prosecuted under the smuggling
st at ut es. 123
International Assistance and Cooperation
The U.S. government participates in several international venues to enhance the
visibility of wildlife crime issues and coordinate with other countries and entities to
halt wildlife trafficking. In recent years, the United States has provided funding to
three primary international conservation programs that address wildlife trafficking:
CITES, the Coalition Against Wildlife Trafficking (CAWT), and the ASEAN
Wildlife Law Enforcement Network. U.S. contributions fund efforts to facilitate
policy approaches and technical expertise to assist developing countries in building
their capacity to combat the illegal wildlife trade.
The United States also participates in several other relevant international
venues, including the North American Agreement on Environmental Cooperation,
Interpol, World Customs Organization, Group of Eight, and additional U.N. bodies.
In addition to these organizations, several additional, regional anti-trafficking
organizations exist, in which the United States does not play an active role. These
include the South Asia Wildlife Trade Initiative, established in February 2008; the
European Union’s E.U. Enforcement Action Plan to Combat Illegal Wildlife Trade,
established in June 2007; and the Lusaka Agreement Task Force, established in 1994.
(See Appendix B for descriptions.)
The United States does not participate in international efforts to regulate
international wildlife trade to prevent disease transmission or invasive species, as no
such international organization currently exists. However, some international
organizations, of which the United States is a member, are involved in efforts to track
122 John T. Webb and Robert S. Anderson, “Prosecuting Wildlife Traffickers: Important
Cases, Many Tools, Good Results,” United States Attorneys’ Bulletin (December 1999), pp.
123 For example, see 18 U.S.C. §545.
major animal diseases and emerging diseases that can be passed from animals to
humans. One such effort launched in 2006, the Global Early Warning System for
Major Animal Diseases, involves collaboration between the World Health
Organization, the World Organization for Animal Health, and the U.N. Food and
CITES. The CITES Secretariat is the primary multilateral organization that
regulates trade in wildlife. The United States is one of 172 parties to CITES, which
entered into force in March 1973 and established legal guidelines for the international
trade of certain wild animals, plants, and derivatives thereof. These animals, plants,
and parts are subject to varying degrees of trade regulation, based on their being
listed in the appendices of the Convention. Appendix I lists animals and plants that
are threatened with extinction and trade in these species is only authorized in
exceptional circumstances. Appendix II lists species not immediately threatened with
extinction but may become so if trade is not regulated. Appendix III lists species that
are regulated within the jurisdiction of at least one CITES party. Trade in Appendix-
listed animals and plants is based on a system of government-issued permits and
certificates that must be presented before consignments can leave or enter a country.
Many analysts observe, however, that CITES is limited in its ability to monitor
illegal wildlife trade and enforce member states’ compliance with the provisions of
the treaty.125 CITES, on its own, does not make illegal wildlife trading a crime or
prescribe criminal penalties against violators. Instead, the treaty relies on member
states to execute national legislation that enforces CITES commitments and to report
to the CITES Secretariat cases of noncompliance. A 2003 U.N. report on wildlife
crime and CITES, for example, claims that many member states suffer from an
inability to enforce wildlife trade laws, and the penalties associated with the laws are
so low that they are unlikely to deter potential wildlife criminals.126 To address
flagrant violators of the treaty, the CITES Secretariat does, on occasion, issue
notifications informing member states to suspend trade in CITES-listed species with
noncompliant countries. Currently, CITES has active suspension notifications against
Djibouti, Guinea-Bissau, Liberia, Mauritania, Nigeria, Rwanda, and Somalia.127 It
remains unclear, however, to what extent these suspensions are carried out by
124 World Health Organization, “Launch of Global Early Warning System for Animal
Diseases Transmissible to Humans,” Press Release, at [http://www.who.int/mediacentre/
125 Hayman and Brack, “International Environmental Crime,” p. 22.
126 Report of the U.N. Secretary-General (2003).
127 CITES Notification to the Parties, No. 2003/027 (May 6, 2003); No. 2004/055 (July 30,
2004); No. 2005/038 (July 19, 2005); No. 2006/073 (December 14, 2006); No. 2006/074
(December 14, 2006).
128 Rosalind Reeve, “Wildlife Trade, Sanctions, and Compliance: Lessons from the CITES
Regime,” International Affairs, vol. 82, no. 5 (2006), pp. 881-897; and Zimmerman, “The
Black Market for Wildlife,” p. 1666.
Coalition Against Wildlife Trafficking. Initiated in 2005, the Coalition
Against Wildlife Trafficking (CAWT) is a voluntary partnership among governments
and non-governmental entities that seeks to raise the political profile of international
wildlife crime. CAWT maintains three goals: (1) improve wildlife law enforcement
by expanding training, information sharing, and strengthening regional cooperative
networks; (2) reduce consumer demand for illegally traded wildlife by raising
awareness of its consequences; and (3) broaden support for combating wildlife
trafficking at the highest political levels. As the sole founder of this initiative, the
United States is serving as the first two-year chair.
Since its inception, CAWT has been active in holding several international
training courses about wildlife law enforcement and related topics and conducting
awareness activities. Although some observers welcome this relatively new initiative
to help raise the profile of wildlife trafficking issues, others perceive that some
countries may be hesitant to commit financially to CAWT. As one expert explained
in congressional testimony in 2007, CAWT has suffered from a “slow response from129
other foreign governments.” Currently, there are four other countries, besides the
United States, involved in CAWT: Australia, Canada, India, and the United
Kindgom. Furthermore, some observers question whether CAWT has been able to
define and differentiate its role among U.S. agencies that have responsibilities to
combat illegal wildlife trafficking.
ASEAN Wildlife Enforcement Network. In December 2005, the
Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN)130 launched the ASEAN Wildlife
Law Enforcement Network (ASEAN-WEN) as a regional effort to improve
cooperation in combating wildlife crime in Southeast Asia. In the ASEAN statement
for its launch, member states noted the “need to strengthen enforcement of CITES
and other legislation for wildlife protection” and to “address the serious problem
caused by illegal domestic and international trade in wild fauna and flora” given that
the “available resources for enforcement are inadequate.”131 Although not a member
of ASEAN, the United States provides foreign aid for ASEAN-WEN through
USAID’s ECO-Asia ASEAN-WEN Support Project. Under this USAID program, the
United States is assisting ASEAN-WEN to provide development and capacity
building for national wildlife crime task forces, regional cooperation and interaction
among task forces, and collaboration with the global law enforcement community.132
129 Testimony Crawford Allan, World Wildlife Fund, in U.S. Congress, House Natural
Resources Committee, Subcommittee on Fisheries, Wildlife, and Oceans, Endangeredthnd
Species Treaty Meeting, hearing, 109 Cong., 2 sess., May 3, 2007.
130 The ten members of ASEAN are Burma, Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia,
the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, and Vietnam.
131 “ASEAN Statement on Launching of the ASEAN Wildlife Law Enforcement Network
at the Special Meeting of the ASEAN Ministers Responsible for the Implementation of
CITES,” Bangkok, Thailand, December 1, 2005.
132 USAID, “Environmental Cooperation-Asia (ECO-Asia) ASEAN Wildlife Enforcement
Other regional efforts to combat the illegal wildlife trade similar to ASEAN-
WEN have grown in popularity in recent years, though the United States is not as
heavily involved in them at this time. These regional efforts are generally perceived
by observers as a positive development, as they bolster regional commitments to
solve a criminal activity that is inherently transboundary in nature. Some, however,
question whether these new initiatives will be sufficient in curtailing the illegal
Issues for Congress
The role of Congress in evaluating U.S. policy to combat wildlife trafficking is
broad. This section analyzes some issues Congress may choose to consider, which
include (1) funding levels for U.S. wildlife trade inspection and investigation
capacity; (2) assessing the role of U.S. foreign aid to combat wildlife trafficking; (3)
supplementing legislative provisions to encourage private-sector involvement in
controlling wildlife trade; (4) evaluating trade sanction laws relative to foreign
countries with weak enforcement of wildlife laws; (5) incorporating wildlife trade
provisions into free trade agreements (FTAs); and (6) addressing the domestic and
international demand for illegal wildlife through public awareness campaigns and
non-governmental organization partnerships.
Funding for Domestic and International Wildlife Trade
Inspection and Investigation
Some observers suggest that improving U.S. capacity to prevent illegal wildlife
from entering the border and combat transnational wildlife crime syndicates may
require Congress to fund and authorize additional inspectors at the border. According
to FWS, approximately 75% of declared wildlife shipments are not inspected at the
border. There are few inspectors in undesignated ports of entry, where undeclared
wildlife shipments are rarely checked.133 Some have suggested that FWS should
increase its inspection of declared and undeclared shipments of wildlife in both
designated and undesignated ports of entry in the United States. One possibility
would be to increase the number of wildlife inspectors, in proportion to the increase
in wildlife shipments entering the United States. In recent years, this has not
occurred. Since 2000, the number of wildlife inspectors has increased at an annual
average of 3.8%, while the number of shipments has increased at an annual average
of approximately 8.7%. (See Table 4.) The cost of implementing this proposal,
however, would likely involve Congress increasing appropriations for FWS, or134
increasing user fees for inspecting wildlife at the border.
133 CBP checks a percentage of all shipments and contacts FWS if wildlife shipments are
134 FWS proposed on February 25, 2008, to gradually increase inspection fees and update
license and fee requirements for importing and exporting wildlife. Fees have not been
increased since 1996. Raising fees is intended to recover some costs of inspecting
Others suggest increasing the investigative capacity of FWS to address the
illegal wildlife trade controlled by organized crime. From 2000 to 2006, the number
of special agents for FWS has increased an average of 0.3% annually, while the
investigative caseload has increased an average of 9.7% annually. More special
agents might result in a greater number of arrests and prosecutions of wildlife
smugglers. Further, more agents may increase the FWS capacity to target specific
wildlife smuggling rings or to monitor wildlife smuggling in developing countries
where it is thought to be most prevalent. The cost of adding more special agents to
the FWS may also involve an increase in appropriations by Congress. Some have
argued that this cost might be partially offset by fines paid to the government from
more prosecutions of wildlife criminals.
Many observers have highlighted the value of recent international law
enforcement initiatives to combat illegal wildlife crime.135 To this end, some suggest
that FWS receive additional authorities from Congress to expand its reach beyond the
U.S. border. Proponents argue that such a policy could help FWS, in conjunction
with foreign counterparts, target more high-value transnational smuggling syndicates.
In testimony to the House Natural Resources Committee in 2008, one analyst
indicated that such an expansion if FWS authorities could be modeled on U.S. Drug
Enforcement Administration authorities, which permit federal drug law enforcement
agents to conduct operations internationally as well as to staff numerous country
offices worldwide.136 Critics of this option, however, argue that wildlife crime is not
sufficiently a priority policy issue to warrant the attendant budgetary costs that would
be associated with such an expansion of FWS authorities.
Foreign Assistance for Combating Wildlife Trafficking
The majority of endangered species in the world are found in developing
countries, where there is need for assistance in protecting species and habitats.137
Some contend that one opportunity to stem the illegal trade in wildlife is to improve
the enforcement capacity of developing countries to control the illegal harvest and
export of species. Congress could further this option by appropriating new funds or
directing funds in pre-existing conservation programs to train and assist foreign
wildlife trade officials in monitoring, detecting, and investigating wildlife trafficking.
FWS and other observers have identified building of wildlife law enforcement
infrastructure in source countries as a priority for stemming the illegal trade.138
Options for achieving this include increasing U.S. efforts to train wildlife inspectors
and special agents in developing countries where the illegal wildlife trade is
flourishing. The justification of such a proposal is based on three premises: (1) direct
135 See for example, testimony by Claudia A. McMurray, House Natural Resources
Committee, “Poaching American Security: Impact of Illegal Wildlife Trade,” March 5,
136 Testimony of Steven R. Galster, House Natural Resources Committee, “Poaching
American Security: Impact of Illegal Wildlife Trade,” March 5, 2008.
137 Alacron, “The Convention on the International Trade of Endangered Species.”
138 FWS, Office of Law Enforcement, Strategic Plan, 2006-2010, p. 5.
training of inspectors and special agents in developing countries will increase their
capacity to monitor, investigate, and reduce illegal wildlife trade; (2) interaction
between FWS agents and agents in developing countries will improve the
coordination and communication among agencies when addressing transnational
wildlife crimes; and (3) training programs may give some FWS agents the
opportunity to assist their foreign counterparts in foreign countries. Currently, FWS
has conducted training programs in Africa, Southeast Asia, Mongolia, and other
countries and regions. Training for judges and prosecutors is also being done in
foreign countries by DOJ. In collaboration with ASEAN-WEN, U.S. officials are
training foreign nationals on methods of prosecuting crimes involving trade in
illegally taken wildlife and wildlife parts. This training is conducted in conjunction
with the ASEAN-WEN Support Group, FWS and several non-governmental
The benefits associated with this proposal would have to be weighed against the
costs of increasing training overseas by FWS. To offset these costs, Congress could
direct funds in some conservation programs toward increasing the law enforcement
capacity in countries with high wildlife crime. For example, the Tropical Forest
Conservation Act139 authorizes the use of debt-for-nature swaps to create funds that
can given as grants to local organizations to improve the security of nature reserves.
Species-specific programs under the Multinational Species Conservation Fund
address various components of the illegal wildlife trade and conservation, including
law enforcement. Congress could appropriate more funds for these programs to
address training and monitoring needs. Further, some programs administered by
USAID under their Environment and Biodiversity programs address the illegal
wildlife trade. For example, in FY2005, USAID supported the training of wildlife
law enforcement officials in Cambodia to investigate the illegal wildlife trade.140
To prevail against wildlife trafficking, many analysts claim that there is a need
for more information on international trafficking routes and a need for that
information, if or when collected, to be shared among interested parties. Today,
national intelligence on environmental crimes is reportedly not collated and
disseminated effectively across countries and law enforcement jurisdictions.141 As a
FWS report explains, combating wildlife trafficking today requires “stepped-up
intelligence sharing” and “the pursuit of complex, cooperative investigations that
stretch across continents.”142 However, the sharing of intelligence with other
countries remains a politically sensitive subject. According to another report,
“Actionable information is often withheld in order to avoid embarrassing the
139 22 U.S.C. §2431
140 USAID, USAID Biodiversity and Forestry Conservation Programs, FY2005, 2007, at
[ h t t p : / / www.usaid.gov/our_work/ envi r onment / b i odi ve r s i t y/ pubs/ b i odi ve r s i t y_
141 Hayman and Brack, “International Environmental Crime,” p. 24; FWS, Office of Law
Enforcement, Strategic Plan, 2006-2010, p. 5.
142 FWS, Office of Law Enforcement, Strategic Plan, 2006-2010, p. 5.
countries involved or because of the perceived confidentiality of national
Intelligence sharing may not necessarily require divulging potentially sensitive
political information. Some analysts have suggested introducing heightened industry
requirements for tracking commercial wildlife shipments.144 A broad array of trade-
tracking technologies could be applied to wildlife products, including satellite
monitoring and the use of barcodes, chemical tracers, and radio-frequency ID tags
and transponders. These technologies are already used in tracking a wide variety of
products, ranging from narcotics to high-value fashion merchandise. Furthermore,
recent scientific findings indicate that ivory products can be traced through DNA
analysis with significant accuracy, although this technology is not ready for
commercial use.145 Not all source countries, however, especially in the developing
world, have the financial resources to commit to potentially costly tracking
technologies. Other questions include whether such tracking technologies are
reliable, consistent, or feasible for a market, such as the illegal wildlife market, that
includes such a wide variety of products. Indeed, such trade tracking options are
unlikely to be applicable for regulating small-scale wildlife shipments.
Another option could involve further expansion of partnerships with the private
sector and development of models of corporate social responsibility for “soft”
regulatory regimes.146 Such regimes could involve industry certification schemes for
manufacturers of traditional Asian medicine products, Internet-based companies that
sell wildlife products, the fashion industry, wild game hunting and tour guide
operations, and many other businesses that may involve illegal wildlife. In some
cases, as with the labeling of traditional Asian medicines, some pilot programs are
underway in other countries, such as the United Kingdom. The non-profit
organization, International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW), has also sought to
promote legislation in California to establish a state-wide labeling program for
traditional Asian medicines — and Congress may choose to consider establishing
similar, national programs.147 Potential limitations to this option include the
possibility that some wildlife commodities may be so valuable, that profits would
trump voluntary commitments. This has been seen in the U.S. illegal caviar trade,
where companies fraudulently mislabeled tins of illegal caviar.148
143 Hayman and Brack, “International Environmental Crime,” p. 24.
144 Ibid., pp. 26-27.
145 Samuel Wasser et al., “Using DNA to Track the Origin of the Largest Ivory Seizure Since
the 1989 Trade Ban.”
146 Hayman and Brack, “International Environmental Crime,” p. 32.
147 International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW), “Traditional Medicine: A Major Threat
That Few Suspect,” at [http://www.ifaw.org/ifaw/general/default.aspx?oid=180459].
148 Andrew C. Revkin, “Vast Caviar Smuggling Case Brings Guilty Pleas,” The New York
Times, July 22, 2000.
Some environment analysts have argued that U.S. trade sanctions can be used
as a diplomatic tool to encourage other countries to improve their efforts in
combating illegal wildlife trafficking.149 One such tool, which has been used on a
bilateral basis, is the 1971 Pelly Amendment to the Fishermen’s Protective Act of
1967.150 This provision involves a two-step sanctioning process, first requiring the
Secretary of Commerce or of the Interior to issue a certification notice to the
President when “nationals of a foreign country, directly or indirectly, are engaging
in trade or taking which diminishes the effectiveness of any international program for
endangered or threatened species.”151 The President, in turn, may choose to direct the
Secretary of the Treasury to impose sanctions on imports of any products from the
offending country for any duration, provided that the sanction is not prohibited by the
World Trade Organization.
A total of 23 countries or territories have been certified a total of 36 times under
the Pelly Amendment.152 The majority of certifications were due to commercial
whaling and unsustainable fishing practices. The remaining cases involved other
endangered wildlife, including Japan in 1991 for trade in sea turtles; and China and
Taiwan in 1993 for trade in rhino horn and tiger bone. On only one occasion —
Taiwan for trade in rhino and tiger parts and products — has the President imposed
sanctions pursuant to the Pelly Amendment. The sanctions temporarily banned the
import of certain fish and wildlife products from Taiwan into the United States. After
a few years of improvements in Taiwanese wildlife trade controls, including
cooperative law enforcement training between FWS and the Taiwanese authorities,
the United States terminated its certification of Taiwan in 1997.153
The certification status listing and the threat of American sanctions under the
Pelly Amendment, however, remains a source of controversy over its effectiveness
and legality. On the one hand, it has been credited for pressuring Japan in the 1990s
149 Theodora Greanias, “A Tool of Persuasion: International Wildlife Conservation,”
Endangered Species Bulletin (July 1998); and Andrew F. Upton, “The Big Green Stick:
Reducing International Environmental Degradation through U.S. Trade Sanctions,” Boston
College Environmental Affairs Law Review, vol. 22 (1994-1995), pp. 671-692.
150 22 U.S.C. §1978, as amended.
151 Additionally, this law requires the Secretaries to issue a certification notice to the
President when foreign countries are allowing fishing operations to occur that diminish the
effectiveness of an international fishery conservation program
152 These countries include (dates of certification in parentheses): Japan (1974, 1988, 1991,
1992, 1995, 2000); the former Soviet Union (1974, 1985); Chile (1978); Peru (1978); South
Korea (1978); Norway (1986, 1990, 1992, 1993); Taiwan (1989, 1991, 1993); Mexico
(1991); Colombia (1992); Canada (1992, 1996); Malaysia (1992); Netherlands Antilles
(1992); Singapore (1992); Spain (1992); United Kingdom (1992); Venezuela (1993);
Vanuatu (1992); Costa Rica (1992); France (1992); Italy (1992); Panama (1992, 1993);
China (1993); and Iceland (2004).
153 “Termination of the Pelly Amendment Certification of Taiwan,” Federal Register, vol.
into addressing its illegal trade in sea turtles.154 In other cases, however, analysts
report that the Pelly certification process has had no, or limited, effect on offending
nations.155 Additionally, some analysts argue that its sporadic use since the early
1990s, including no further use of sanctions since Taiwan in 1994, may be a
reflection of its ineffectiveness. Other analysts suggest that the U.S. government may
have a political disinclination to impose sanctions against countries for wildlife
trafficking. As noted earlier, the CITES Secretariat currently identifies seven
countries in non-compliance with CITES provisions, none of which are currently
certified or sanctioned for their non-compliance. It also remains unclear how the
United States monitors and evaluates foreign country compliance with international
programs for endangered or threatened species — and how or when such evaluations
trigger the certification process.
There also appears to remain some debate surrounding whether the Pelly
Amendment sanction violates World Trade Organization (WTO) and General
Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT) guidelines. Although Article XX of GATT
allows for certain environmental trade measures to trump the international free trade
regime, GATT and WTO have often ruled against unilateral trade restrictions based
on environmental conservation statutes. During the one instance in which the United
States applied a Pelly sanction, it was against a country that was not a member of
GATT or WTO. As a result, it remains to be seen whether a Pelly Amendment
sanction would hold up in a WTO dispute challenge.156 In the meantime, Congress
could move to re-evaluate the effectiveness of the Pelly Amendment as a sanctioning
tool and conduct oversight on agencies involved in the certification and sanctioning
Free Trade Agreements
The increasing globalization of trade, interconnectedness of markets and supply
routes, and emergence of transnational businesses has increased the potential for the
illegal trade in wildlife. Indeed, some contend that free trade agreements such as the
North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) may facilitate the illegal trade in
wildlife because of fewer trade restrictions, generally. For example, some argue that
a free trade agreement (FTA) with Singapore increased U.S. imports of illegally
obtained timber and wildlife from Singapore and other countries that transport
products through Singapore.157 Others argue that a trade agreement with Peru would
have led to an increase in exports of illegally logged timber and wildlife to the United
States from Peru. To address these environmental concerns and others, some have
154 Peter H. Sand, “Whither CITES? The Evolution of a Treaty Regime in the Borderland
of Trade and Environment,” European Journal of International Law, vol. 8 (1997), p. 39.
155 See, for example, Steve Charnovitz, “Environmental Trade Sanctions and the GATT: An
Analysis of the Pelly Amendment on Foreign Environmental Practices,” American
University Journal of International Law and Policy, vol. 9 (1993-1994), pp. 751-807.
156 For a discussion of this, see Scott C. Owen, “Might a Future Tuna Embargo Withstand
a WTO Challenge in Light of the Recent Shrimp-Turtle Ruling?,” Houston Journal of
International Law (Fall 2000).
157 Environmental Investigation Agency, “America’s Free Trade for Illegal Timber,” 2006.
proposed that FTAs should include specific provisions that direct countries to
implement and enforce CITES, and adhere to existing laws regarding the wildlife
trade. Congress is responsible for implementing legislation for FTAs, and might
consider FTAs with Columbia, Panama, and South Korea in the 110th Congress.
Some of these concerns were addressed in U.S.-Peru Trade Promotion
Agreement (TPA).158 The TPA requires that Parties adopt laws and measures to fulfill
its obligations under multilateral environmental agreements, such as CITES. Further,
the TPA would require Parties to enforce their own environmental laws and would
establish a policy mechanism to address public complaints that a Party is not
effectively enforcing its environmental laws whether or not the failure is trade
related. Complaints could be filed by individuals and firms of each Party to the
agreement and would be addressed according to a set of procedures outlined in the
TPA.159 An annex on forest sector governance in the TPA specifically addresses the
Parties commitment to combat trade associated with illegal logging and illegal trade
The framework for the environmental section in U.S.-Peru TPA could be
modified to address the illegal wildlife trade in future agreements with countries that
have a significant illegal wildlife trade. Proponents of this view see several benefits
to including environmental provisions to deter the illegal wildlife trade in free trade
agreements. The FTA may increase the awareness of the illegal wildlife trade and
create additional enforcement mechanisms to address trade violations (e.g., dispute
mechanisms within the agreement). Further, agreements can provide a layer of
assurances that Parties comply with international treaties and enforce their
environmental laws. If there is a mechanism for third parties (e.g., outside groups,
such as NGOs) to verify compliance and report violations to a committee, supporters
assert that it might uncover more wildlife crimes.
A potential drawback of this proposal is that requirements for compliance might
require additional funding. If funding is not available, resources might be allocated
away from other enforcement and monitoring activities to meet the conditions of the
agreement. If the agreement allows outside parties to monitor and conduct
investigations into possible violations, some within the country might view this as
an infringement on national sovereignty.
158 United States-Peru Trade Promotion Agreement, Chapter 18, Environment, at
[h t t p : / / w w w . u s tr.gov/T rade_Agr eements/Bilateral/Peru_T PA/Final_T exts/Section_Index
160 This annex requires Peru to: (1) increase the number and effectiveness of personnel to
enforce laws; (2) provide criminal and civil liability at adequate deterrent levels for actions
that undermine the sustainable management of forests and violate laws pertaining to the
harvest and trade of timber; (3) verify that timber products are harvested in compliance with
all laws; and (4) monitor the timber trade within the country, among other things.
Public Awareness and Government-NGO Cooperation
One potential strategy to combat the illegal trade in wildlife is to reduce demand
for wildlife. Supporters of this view suggest raising public awareness through public
service announcements and campaigns to educate consumers, retailers, and importers
of wildlife products. In some cases, as with many tourists, consumers are simply
unaware of laws prohibiting the import of products made of protected wildlife. Retail
shop-keepers, manufacturers, as well as import-export suppliers may also benefit
from learning about the availability of sustainable alternatives and the potential
consequences of illegal wildlife trade.
U.S. government and non-governmental organization (NGO) campaigns aimed
at demand reduction, domestically and internationally, are ongoing. In October 2007,
for example the State Department identified Bo Derek as a “Special Envoy of the
Secretary of State for Wildlife Trafficking Issues.” Together with Assistant Secretary
of State for Oceans, Environment and Science, Claudia McMurray, Derek conducted
a series of outreach events to raise public awareness about the illegal global trade in
wildlife in Southern Florida, which is one of the major points of entry for legal and
illegal wildlife. In Afghanistan, there has been some concern that U.S. personnel may
be attempting to bring back to the United States furs and other wildlife artifacts that
are protected under CITES, Afghanistan law, and U.S. and miliary laws. To address
this the Department of Defense, in concert with officials from the State Department,
Environmental Protection Agency, and the non-profit Wildlife Conservation Society,
organized information sessions to educate U.S. personnel about illegal wildlife and
the consequences of fostering demand for such wildlife products.161
Some reports indicate that these public awareness campaigns may show results.
The wildlife protection NGO WildAid, for example, launched a reportedly successful
series of public advertisements and short films to create awareness about the impacts
of the sharkfin trade among consumers in Asia; the campaign reported a 50-70%
decrease in demand in some markets.162 However, it remains to be seen whether
future campaigns can show similar results and if these campaigns can effect long-
term changes in consumer culture. Congress might play a role in the use and
evaluation of demand-side strategies in several ways. For example, Congress could
conduct oversight of existing demand-side reduction programs, evaluating the
effectiveness of demand-side programs and assessing what policy options may exist
to enhance the cost-effectiveness of demand-side anti-trafficking initiatives.
Additionally, Congress could direct funds or require U.S. agencies to include
demand-side reduction programs in their anti-wildlife trafficking efforts.
161 “Environmental Education for Afghans Essential, U.S. Officials Say,” Armed Forces
Press Service, August 15, 2007.
162 Hayman and Brack, “International Environmental Crime,” p. 31.
Appendix A. Selected Laws Related to
the Wildlife Trade
African Elephant Conservation Act.163 This Act establishes as U.S. policy
the goals of assisting in conservation and protection of the African elephant. This law
directs the Secretary of the Interior to review export controls of raw African elephant
ivory in producing states and import controls in raw ivory destination countries. If
source or transit countries are found lacking in adequate management of ivory trade,
the Secretary of the Interior can issue a moratorium on the import of raw and worked
African elephant ivory into the United States. The law also makes illegal the (1)
import of raw African elephant ivory from any country other than ivory producing
states; (2) the export of raw ivory from the United States; (3) the import of raw or
worked ivory from other countries in violation of their laws or of CITES regulations;
(4) the import of worked ivory from other countries unless that country certifies that
the ivory was derived from legal sources; (5) the import of raw or worked ivory from
a country under moratorium; and (6) the sale of raw or worked ivory in the United
States from importers or exporters that have not obtained permission to do so by the
Secretary of the Interior.
Alien Species Prevention and Enforcement Act of 1992.164 This Act
defines what types of plants and animals are “nonmailable,” or prohibited from being
sent to Hawaii using postal services. Specifically, nonmailable animals include
injurious animals prohibited under 18 U.S.C. §42 and illegally taken wildlife
prohibited under 16 U.S.C. §3372, are nonmailable.
Animal Health Protection Act.165 This Act aims to regulate interstate and
foreign commerce to prevent, detect, control, and eradicate animal diseases and pests
that can affect the livestock industry. Under this Act, the Secretary of Agriculture is
authorized to prohibit or restrict the import, entry, export, and movement in interstate
commerce of any animal, article, or means of conveyance, or use of any means of
conveyance or facility if determined to be necessary to prevent the introduction or
dissemination within the United States of any pest or disease of livestock.
Animal Welfare Act.166 This Act regulates interstate and foreign trade, traffic,
transport, or other commerce of animals to (1) insure that animals intended for use
in research facilities, for exhibition purposes, or for use as pets are provided humane
care and treatment; and (2) assure the humane treatment of animals during transport
in commerce. Among other stipulations, this law requires that animals in commerce
must be marked or identified in a humane manner, and includes standards for
163 16 U.S.C. §§4201 et seq.; P.L. 100-478, as amended. Congress also enacted another
elephant conservation law, the Asian Elephant Conservation Act of 1997 (16 U.S.C.
§§4261-4266; P.L. 105-96, as amended). This law, however, does not include any provisions
that restrict the trade in Asian elephant ivory.
164 39 U.S.C. §3015 note; P.L. 102-393.
165 7 U.S.C. §8301 et seq.; P.L. 107-171.
166 7 U.S.C. §§2131 et seq.; P.L. 89-544, as amended.
handing, housing, feeding, watering, sanitation, ventilation, shelter from extremes of
weather and temperature, and other guidelines. Further, this law prohibits buying,
selling, delivering, or transporting animals for participation in animal fighting
Antarctic Conservation Act of 1978.167 This Act provides for the
conservation of wildlife and plants of Antarctica, consistent with the Antarctic Treaty
and Protocol. The Act makes it unlawful for any U.S. citizen to knowingly receive,
acquire, transport, offer for sale, sell, purchase, import, export, or have custody,
control, or possession of any native bird, mammal, plant, or invertebrate from
Antarctic Marine Living Resources Convention Act of 1984.168 This
Act makes it unlawful to ship, transport, offer for sale, sell, purchase, import, export,
or have custody, control or possession of any Antarctic marine living resource, or part
or product thereof, known to have been harvested in violation of U.S. laws consistent
with the Convention on the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources.
Antarctic marine living resources include finfish, mollusks, crustaceans, and all other
species of living organisms, including birds, found south of the Antarctic
Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act.169 This Act prohibits the taking,
possession, selling, purchasing, bartering, offering to sell, purchase or barter,
transporting, exporting, or importing of any bald or golden eagle, alive or dead, or
any part, nest, or egg thereof. Under certain instances, the Secretary of the Interior
may permit exceptions to this law. Exceptions include instances that are compatible
with the preservation of the bald or golden eagle. Additionally, specimens may be
permitted for scientific or exhibition purposes of public museums, scientific
societies, zoos, for religious purposes of Native American tribes, and if necessary for
the protection of certain interests in a particular locality.
Dog and Cat Protection Act of 2000.170 This law prohibits imports,
exports, sale, manufacture, offer for sale, transport, and distribution in the United
States of dog and cat fur products. The purpose of this law is to ensure that U.S.
market demand does not provide an incentive to slaughter dogs or cats for their fur.
Endangered Species Act of 1973.171 This Act establishes a U.S. program
for the conservation of endangered and threatened species, consistent with CITES
and other international agreements. The law prohibits any person subject to the
jurisdiction of the United States to engage in any trade in any specimens contrary to
the provisions of CITES, or to possess any specimens traded contrary to the
167 16 U.S.C. §§2401 et seq.; P.L. 95-541, as amended.
168 16 U.S.C. §§2431 et seq.; P.L. 98-623.
169 16 U.S.C. §§668 et seq.; P.L. 86-70, as amended.
170 19 U.S.C. §1308; P.L. 106-476.
171 16 U.S.C. §§1531-1544; P.L. 93-205, as amended.
provisions of CITES. Further, if the Secretaries of the Interior and of Commerce
determines a species to be endangered or threatened, this law prohibits any such
species from being imported, exported, taken, possessed, sold, delivered, carried,
transported, shipped by any means, sold or offered for sale in interstate or foreign
commerce. Under certain circumstances, some U.S. persons may be permitted to take
or import listed species.
Fisherman’s Protective Act of 1967 (Pelly Amendment).172 This Act
establishes provisions to protect U.S. vessels on the high seas and in the territorial
waters of foreign countries. Located within this law is the so-called Pelly173
Amendment, which establishes restrictions on imports of fishery and wildlife
products from countries that violate international fishery or endangered or threatened
species programs. Specifically, the law directs the Secretary of Commerce and/or of
the Interior to certify to the President when nationals of a foreign country directly or
indirectly conduct operations in a manner or under circumstances that diminish the
effectiveness of conservation programs for fish and endangered or threatened species.
Once certified, the President may direct the Secretary of Treasury to prohibit the
import of any products from the offending country for any duration, as the President
determines is appropriate and to the extent that such prohibitions are sanctioned by
the World Trade Organization and other multilateral trade agreements.
Fur Seal Act of 1966.174 This Act prohibits any person to transport, import,
offer for sale, or possess at any port or place or on any vessel, subject to the
jurisdiction of the United States, fur seals or the parts thereof, including, but not
limited to, raw, dressed, or dyed fur seal skins, except under certain circumstances.
Lacey Act.175 This Act seeks to aid in restoring U.S. birds that have become
scare or extinct and to regulate the introduction of American or foreign birds or
animals in localities where they are not native. All but the first section of the law has
since been repealed. In the original, however, this Act prohibited any person or
persons to import into the United States any foreign wild animal or bird except under
special permit from the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
Lacey Act Amendments of 1981.176 This Act makes it unlawful to import,
export, transport, sell, receive, acquire, or purchase any fish or wildlife already taken,
possessed, transported, or sold in violation of state, federal, tribal, or foreign wildlife
laws or regulations. The Lacey Act also requires that all shipments of wildlife or
wildlife products be accurately marked or labeled on shipping containers; it is a
violation to transport wildlife and wildlife products under falsely marked containers.
The Lacey Act contains provisions that restrict the import or transport of species
deemed injurious or potentially injurious to human beings, agriculture, horticulture,
172 22 U.S.C. §§1971 et seq.; P.L. 90-482, as amended.
173 22 U.S.C. §1978; P.L. 92-219, as amended.
174 16 U.S.C. §§1151 et seq.; P.L. 89-702, as amended.
175 16 U.S.C. §701; 31 Stat. 187, as amended.
176 16 U.S.C. §§3371 et seq.; P.L. 97-79, as amended.
forestry, and fish and wildlife resources of the United States. The statute applies only
to wild mammals, birds, fish, amphibians, reptiles, mollusks, and crustaceans. It does
not apply, for example, to insects, plants, and fungi.177
Marine Mammal Protection Act of 1972.178 This Act establishes a
moratorium on the taking and import of marine mammals and marine mammal
products. It is unlawful to use any port, harbor, or other place under jurisdiction of
the United States to take or import marine mammals and marine mammal products.
Further, it is unlawful to transport, purchase, sell, export, or offer to purchase, sell,
or export such animals taken on the high seas or in waters or land under the
jurisdiction of the United States. Some exceptions to this moratorium are allowed,
such as the taking of marine mammals and marine mammal products for scientific
research and other purposes.
Marine Turtle Conservation Act.179 This Act seeks to assist in conserving
marine turtles and in nesting habitats in foreign countries by supporting and
providing financial resources for projects to conserve the nesting habitats, and marine
turtles in those habitats, and to address other threats to the survival of marine turtles.
With regard to the trade in marine turtles, this law states that it will use conservation
projects to prevent the illegal trade in marine turtles, among other goals. There are
no specific prohibitions on trade of marine turtles in this law.
Migratory Bird Treaty Act.180 The Act was enacted in 1918 to implement
the International Convention for the Protection of Migratory Birds signed by the
United States and Great Britain (acting for Canada). With exceptions listed in this
Act, it shall be unlawful “at any time, by any means, or in any manner, to pursue,
hunt, take, capture, kill, attempt to do these acts, [or] possess ... any migratory bird,
[or] any part, nest, or eggs of any such bird ....” Specifically in relation to trade, it is
unlawful to sell or transport migratory birds as defined in the Act and associated
products contrary to the laws of the State, Territory, or district in which it was
captured, killed, or taken. These conditions also apply to the import of birds and
associated materials from any Province in Canada. This applies to migratory species
native to the United States and its Territories.
Neotropical Migratory Bird Conservation Act.181 This Act provides
grants to conserve the hundreds of bird species that migrate between North and South
America and the Caribbean. Conservation also includes law enforcement under this
Act. Further, the Act authorizes the Secretary of the Interior to support and
coordinate existing efforts to conserve neotropical birds.
177 There are currently 26 individual species, genera, or families listed as injurious species.
178 16 U.S.C. §§1361 et seq.; P.L. 92-522, as amended.
179 16 U.S.C. §§6601 et seq.; P.L. 108-266.
180 16 U.S.C. §§703 et seq.; 40 Stat. 755, as amended.
181 16 U.S.C. §§6101 et seq.; P.L. 106-247, as amended.
Public Health Service Act.182 This Act addresses the importation of wildlife
that might be carrying communicable diseases to humans. Specifically, §264(a)
authorizes the Surgeon General to enforce regulations that “are necessary to prevent
the introduction, transmission, or spread of communicable diseases from foreign
countries into the States or possessions....” The Surgeon General is authorized to
inspect, fumigate, disinfect, sanitize, and destroy animals or articles found to be
infected or contaminated “as to be sources of dangerous infection to human
beings . 183“
Rhinoceros and Tiger Conservation Act of 1994.184 This Act seeks to
assist in the conservation of all species of rhinos and tigers, including those already
listed as protected species from trade under CITES and U.S. regulations. The law
specifically prohibits the sale, import, and export of products intended for human
consumption or application that contain or are labeled or advertised as containing,
any substance derived from any species of rhino or tiger.
Wild Bird Conservation Act of 1992.185 This Act limits or prohibits
imports of exotic birds when necessary to ensure that wild exotic bird populations are
not harmed by removal of exotic birds from the wild for trade and that exotic birds
in trade are not subject to inhumane treatment. The law includes provisions to limit
or prohibit U.S. imports of exotic bird species covered by CITES and authorizes
moratoria on the import of species not necessarily covered by CITES.
182 42 U.S.C. §264(a); 58 Stat. 703, as amended.
183 A list of embargos on specific species can be found at [http://www.cdc.gov/ncidod/dq/
184 16 U.S.C. §§5301 et seq.; P.L. 103-391, as amended.
185 16 U.S.C. §§4901 et seq.; P.L. 102-440.
Appendix B. Additional International Efforts to
Combat Wildlife Crime
North American Agreement on Environmental Cooperation. In
conjunction with the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), Canada,
Mexico, and the United States also signed the North American Agreement on
Environmental Cooperation and created the Commission for Environmental
Cooperation in 1993. This international organization was established to address
regional environmental concerns, help prevent potential trade and environmental
conflicts, and promote the effective enforcement of environmental law, including
those protecting wildlife. Through its North American Working Group on
Environmental Enforcement and Compliance Cooperation, this organization provides
senior wildlife enforcement officials from NAFTA countries a forum for regional
cooperation, expertise exchange, and enforcement capacity building. One component
of this working group is the North American Wildlife Enforcement Group
(NAWEG), created in 1995.
Interpol. As parts of its efforts to address environmental crimes, Interpol
established a Working Group on Wildlife Crime in 1994. The wildlife working
group’s primary goals are to coordinate information sharing related to wildlife crime
on an international scale and to facilitate and coordinate operational enforcement
activity. To achieve this, Interpol maintains an international network for the exchange
of information, enhances domestic operations in member countries through
cooperation and coordination activities, and assists in training wildlife enforcement
officers in developing countries. In 1996, a full-time officer was appointed to manage
Interpol’s wildlife crime programs.
World Customs Organization. With its specialty in international trade and
customs administration and 171-country membership, including the United States,
the World Customs Organization works with other international organizations and
member countries on wildlife trafficking and other issues. Since July 1996, the World
Customs Organization and the CITES Secretariat have maintained a legal framework
for international cooperation to exchange information related to wildlife crime and
promote awareness and training for customs and management authorities at the
Group of Eight. During the March 2007 Group of Eight (G-8) meeting of
environmental ministers in Postdam, Germany, the attendees committed to the186
“Postdam Initiative — Biological Diversity 2010.” This agreement aims to
strengthen international efforts to combat the illegal trade in wildlife, among other
concerns, by 2010.
UN Commission on Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice.
Acknowledging that the trafficking of forest products, including wildlife, is often
linked to organized crime and can involve the same actors who traffic drugs, arms,
186 Countries represented at the meeting included the United States, Germany, France, Italy,
Japan, Russia, and the United Kingdom.
and persons, the United States, in conjunction with Indonesia, Australia, the
Philippines, and Thailand, sponsored a resolution that urges countries to fight forest
and wildlife crime by strengthening law enforcement cooperation, combating
criminal groups operating within their borders, and cooperating through the U.N.
Convention Against Transnational Organized Crime and the U.N. Convention
Against Corruption. The resolution, first presented for adoption in 2006, was adopted
on April 25 at the 2007 commission meeting in Vienna.187
Lusaka Agreement and Task Force. The Lusaka Agreement on
Co-operative Enforcement Operations Directed at Illegal Trade in Wild Fauna and
Flora is a formal intergovernmental organization, which entered into force in 1996,
under the auspices of the U.N. Environment Programme. The group aims to improve
wildlife crime law enforcement cooperation and capacity-building. As part of the
Lusaka Agreement, the member states launched the Lusaka Task Force as a
permanent law enforcement institution to facilitate international cooperation in
carrying out wildlife crime investigations in Africa. The Task Force, which includes
as parties to the agreement the governments of the Republic of Congo, Kenya,
Lesotho, Uganda, Tanzania, and Zambia, is sometimes referred to as the “African
Interpol for Wildlife.”
Enforcement Action Plan to Combat Illegal Wildlife Trade. Unveiled
in 2007, the E.U. Enforcement Action Plan to Combat Illegal Wildlife Trade seeks
to improve wildlife trade enforcement across the E.U. as well as in wildlife source
countries. In the source countries, the E.U. aims to provide law enforcement capacity
building as well as increase awareness of illegal wildlife trade.
South Asia Wildlife Trade Initiative. Established in February 2008 under
the South Asia Cooperative Environmental Programme, the South Asia Wildlife
Trade Initiative includes country representatives from Afghanistan, Bangladesh,
Bhutan, India, the Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan, and Sri Lanka. During the initiative’s
first regional workshop from January 31 to February 1, 2008, senior wildlife officials
from these countries agreed to increased cooperation in regulating their wildlife trade.
The country representatives established two efforts to realize this goal: the South
Asia Experts Group on Wildlife Trade and the South Asia Regional Strategic Plan
on Wildlife for 2008 through 2013.
187 U.N. Commission on Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice, “International Cooperation
in Preventing and Combating Illicit International Trafficking in Forest Products, Including
Timber, Wildlife and Other Forest Biological Resources,” Australia, Indonesia, Philippines,
Thailand and United States of America: revised draft resolution, April 25, 2007.