Wildlife trafficking is decimating many endangered species around the globe due to an organized and highly sophisticated illegal trade of wildlife and wildlife products. Wildlife trafficking has quickly become a multi-billion dollar transnational criminal activity that is not only a critical conservation issue, but is also a threat to security. It is ranked as the fourth most profitable transnational crime, only behind the drug trade, arms trade, and human trafficking. Wildlife trafficking undermines conservation efforts, fuels corruption, threatens the rule of law, and destabilizes communities that depend on wildlife for eco- tourism revenues.
The illegal wildlife trade is threatening the survival of many species in the wild. According to a World Wildlife Fund report, the world has already lost 58% of wildlife in the past four decades; and by 2020, we may lose two-thirds. The Great Elephant Census, shows us that elephants are in crisis — African savanna elephant populations are down 30% in the last seven years alone. Rhinoceros populations are being decimated at rates of more than 1,000 killings per year. African lion populations have plummeted by 42% in the past twenty years, with fewer than 20,000 lions remaining in the wild. Fewer than 3,900 tigers are left in the wild; and dozens of other endangered and threatened species are victims of the illegal trade.
While great inroads have been made by leaders across sectors (federal, commercial, and not-for-profit) to stop illegal traffickers, enhance enforcement efforts, create sustainable supply chains, and build awareness among the general public, more needs to be done and quickly.
The United States continues to help fuel demand for the illegal killing of elephants, rhinos, tigers and other species by providing one of the world’s largest markets for ivory, rhino horn, tiger and other wildlife skins and parts.
As the White House confirmed with the release of the National Strategy to Combat Wildlife Trafficking, the government alone cannot shut down illegal trafficking in the U.S. All of civil society must band together to stop consumer demand and cut off supply chains and market access for illegal wildlife products. By working together to leverage existing company, non-profit and foundation initiatives and unify messages, Alliance members will empower consumers to make the right purchase decisions and, by proliferating best practices through industry sectors, choke off access to the U.S. market.