International Conservation
Reef Shark, © Ed Gullekson

The Perils of the International Wildlife Trade

When international trade in wildlife goes unchecked, overexploitation occurs, driving species into near extinction. Hundreds of species like vaquitas, sea turtles, parrots, sharks, and elephants have already suffered enormous population declines because of illegal trade.

The legal trade in wildlife is estimated to be worth $183 billion worldwide. The illegal wildlife trade is estimated to be worth another $7-23 billion, making it the third largest illegal trade by dollar value, after drugs and guns. The United States is one of the largest consumers of both legal and illegal wildlife in the world, and the role that it plays in combatting wildlife trafficking is crucial.

Defenders’ International Conservation Program focuses on wildlife trade in species native to Latin America, the Caribbean and Mexico, and the many illegal wildlife trade hotspots in this region. The illegal trade in this region includes exotic birds, coral, sea turtles, iguanas, queen conch, caiman, and crocodiles, among others. In combating wildlife trafficking, we also focus on issues in the United States that can impact wildlife around the world, such as domestic consumer demand, domestic law enforcement, and state and federal trade bans.

What Defenders is Doing to Help

  • Raising domestic consumer awareness – making sure people know what’s in their purchases, and how it may be impacting wildlife around the world.
  • Offering our expertise and recommendations in support of President Obama’s Executive Order 13684 on Combatting Wildlife Trafficking, the U.S. National Strategy for Combatting Wildlife Trafficking, and the Implementation Plan for the National Strategy.
  • Advocating for additional funding for the Fish and Wildlife Service to employ more wildlife inspectors and special agents at key ports to stop more illegal wildlife shipments from entering and exiting the country.
  • Promoting legislation and policies to increase penalties for committing wildlife crimes.


More on International Conservation: Combating Wildlife Trafficking »

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