Both in the United States and around the world, wildlife trafficking does take place.
The illegal collection, transportation, and distribution of animals are known as wildlife trafficking. Anything associated with animals, known as a derivative, is also regarded as trafficking.
Wildlife crime is a significant industry. Similar to the trafficking of illegal drugs and weapons, deadly multinational networks operate in the trade of wildlife and animal parts. It is nearly impossible to find accurate estimates of the value of the illegal wildlife trade due to its very nature. The wildlife trade monitoring network, TRAFFIC, puts the value at billions of dollars.
Examples of illicit wildlife commerce include the poaching of tigers and elephants for their skins and bones and the removal of ivory from elephants.
Numerous other species, including timber trees and marine turtles, are also overfarmed. Trade in wildlife is not always forbidden. Tens of thousands of wild animals and plants are caught or harvested, then lawfully marketed as food, pets, ornamental plants, leather, tourist souvenirs, and medicines. When a growing fraction of the wildlife trade is illegal and unsustainable, it becomes a crisis since it directly jeopardizes the future of numerous species in the wild.
Is Smuggling of Wildlife a Crime?
Yes. To safeguard animals around the world, federal laws were passed. These laws consist of the following:
- Preserving threatened species
- Limiting the entry of wildlife into the United States.
- Enforcing international wildlife regulations
Demand for animals has increased along with the size of the human population. People are accustomed to a lifestyle that increases animal demand in many places. They anticipate having access to a range of textiles, leather products, lumber, and fish. On the other hand, those who live in great poverty may view animals as desirable commodities for trade.
Excellent Profit Margins
High profit margins and high prices for rare species are the main drivers of the illegal wildlife trade. When natural reproduction cannot keep up with the rate of human consumption, vulnerable wild creatures are pushed closer to extinction.
Crime Is Driven By Demand
Products made from tigers, elephants, and rhinos continue to fetch high prices from customers, particularly in Asia. Recent claims that rhino horn can treat cancer in Vietnam have resulted in widespread rhino poaching in South Africa and driven up the cost of rhino horn to levels comparable to gold.
Variations in Protection
Criminal networks can continue to loot nature with little regard for the repercussions due to corruption, impotent laws, ineffective judicial systems, and cheap punishments. These elements make illegal wildlife trafficking a low-risk, high-reward endeavor. The real masterminds and their network remain undetected and capable of carrying out future attacks because the only people typically apprehended are the poachers, frequently destitute locals.
The wildlife trade poses a particular concern in some regions of the world. The term “wildlife trade hotspots” refers to these locations. The international borders of China, major commercial centers in East/Southern Africa and Southeast Asia, the eastern frontiers of the European Union, several Mexican markets, areas of the Caribbean, Indonesia, and New Guinea, and the Solomon Islands are among them.
While these hotspots may now be trouble spots, if action and resources are properly directed, they also provide prospects for enormous conservation success. Some species face a serious threat from wildlife trading alone, although this vulnerability is typically exacerbated by habitat loss and other factors.
The simple fact that unlawful trade exists undercuts national efforts to safeguard their natural resources. Criminal organizations with extensive global networks control the illegal wildlife trade. Some people deal with illicit weapons, drugs, and even people. Recent data demonstrate that some networks have ties to terrorist groups.
A Change in Livelihood
Many communities, frequently the poorest, in the developing world view their local animals as valuable resources. Some rural homes rely on wild animals and plants for natural remedies, as well as on trees for fire.
Interference with Nature
The overuse of certain species has broader effects on the planet’s ecosystem. Our intricate web of life on earth depends on the cautious and intelligent use of wildlife species and their habitats, much as overfishing produces imbalances in the entire marine system.
By purchasing or trading wildlife, several invasive species have been purposefully introduced. The natural order is seriously threatened by these invading species, which prey on or compete with native species. For instance, pet Burmese pythons released by their owners into Florida’s Everglades are now regarded as a serious problem.
The Killing of Species Not Intended
Animals are incidentally killed on land just like marine creatures are through bycatch. For instance, shoddy traps placed for musk deer or duikers harm and even kill several creatures besides those for which they were designed.
Are There State Wildlife Protection Laws?
Yes. Different jurisdictions have different laws. Most states regulate the influx of non-native species into their territories while protecting their own natural wildlife. Additionally, they control the trade of animals within their own state.
The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES), whose goal is to stop such trade from endangering the survival of 5,000 animals and 28,000 plant species, has regulated the buying and selling of wildlife across international borders since 1973. The enforcement of CITES is mostly the responsibility of individual nations, many of which have additional restrictions on the wildlife trade.
The importation of most wild birds caught in the United States was prohibited by the Wild Bird Conservation Act of 1992. Any parrot you see for sale in the United States was probably bred in captivity (unless you’re at a flea market on the southern border). The commercial harvesting and export of wild-caught parrots were outlawed in Ecuador and all but a few other South American nations in 2007. The European Union also outlawed the importing of wild birds.
Due to the region’s tremendous biodiversity, wildlife trafficking is a threat in Latin America. There are around 1,600 bird species in Ecuador, a country roughly the size of Colorado, compared to 900 in the entire United States. Finding reliable information on the illegal traffic of plants and animals is difficult. Brazil is the country in Latin America with the most complete data; according to the Institute of Environment and Natural Resources estimates, at least 12 million wild animals are poached there annually.
Of course, animals who are pulled out of their natural habitat suffer. They are concealed in hubcaps, toilet paper tubes, hair curlers, and nylon stockings, among other items.
Animals that are kidnapped in Latin America frequently make their way to the U.S., Europe, or Japan. Many are housed in hotels and restaurants or become household pets and never leave their home nations. Latin America’s long-standing custom is to preserve native creatures like parrots, monkeys, and turtles. Tamed wild creatures are known as xerimbabos, which is Portuguese for “something cherished,” in various regions of Brazil. According to recent surveys, 25% of Costa Ricans and 30% of Brazilians indicated they had kept wild animals as pets.
Can I Go to Prison for Trafficking in Wildlife?
Yes. Depending on state and federal legislation, different amounts of time can be spent in prison. According to Title 18 of the U.S. code, for instance, killing, hunting, or trapping wildlife may result in a fine and up to one year in jail.
Is Wildlife Trafficking Considered Poaching?
No. The illegal killing of wildlife is known as poaching. Usually, the animals are murdered for their meat, skin, or body parts. The phrase “body parts” refers to prohibited and sought-after animal body parts, such as ivory or fur. A prison sentence will be served for poaching.
Do I Require Legal Counsel for Wildlife Trafficking?
Yes. Contact a criminal attorney if you are charged with or indicted for breaking a state or federal wildlife trafficking law. An attorney can advise you on the appropriate course of action to follow in court or when negotiating a plea bargain.