Facts & Resources from
the Forum & Congressional Hearing on
On May 3, 2017, National Geographic hosted the Mapping the World Public Policy Dialogue Forum on Wildlife Trafficking. During the forum, National Geographic Society President & CEO Gary Knell convened a conversation with House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Ed Royce and National Geographic Explorer and journalist Bryan Christy about the inextricable ties between wildlife trafficking and national security. Following the conversation on May 3, Mr. Christy was invited to testify on May 18, 2017, before the U.S. House Foreign Affairs Committee during a hearing on U.S. interests in Africa.
The ongoing Mapping the World Public Policy Dialogue was created by National Geographic as a space where facts can be discussed and solutions developed. As part of these conversations, we compiled the following resources about the international illegal wildlife trade.
Facts and resources about international wildlife trafficking
1. The international illegal wildlife trade (excluding timber and fisheries) is estimated to be worth at least $19 billion per year, making it the fourth largest illegal global trade (after drugs, counterfeiting, and human trafficking).
2. Wildlife trafficking is both a conservation concern and an acute security threat. The increasing involvement of organized crime in wildlife trafficking:
- Promotes corruption
- Threatens the peace and security of fragile regions
- Strengthens illicit trade routes
- Destabilizes economies and communities that depend on wildlife for their livelihoods
- Contributes to the spread of disease
3. Current species extinctions: Current rates of extinction are about 1,000 times the background rate of extinction.
- The background rate is approximately one to five species per year.
4. In a survey of 570 rangers polled in 12 African countries:
- Fifty-nine percent answered NO to the question: “Do you feel you are provided with proper equipment and amenities to ensure safety?”
- Seventy-five percent answered YES to the question: “Have you been threatened by community members or other people because of this work?”
- Forty-two percent said NO to the question: “Do you feel you are adequately trained to do your job?”
Download the wildlife trafficking general fact and resource sheet below.
National Security Nexus
Insights about the connection between wildlife trafficking and national security
Shared by National Geographic Explorer and journalist Bryan Christy during the National Geographic Forum on Wildlife Trafficking & the U.S. House Foreign Affairs Committee Hearing on U.S. Interests in Africa
1. Organized criminal syndicates traffic nearly every part of most of the threated or endangered animals on the planet. The wildlife trafficking problem is widely known, though not adequately addressed in many African countries even in terms of basic, intelligence-led investigative techniques, prosecutions, and convictions.
2. Many countries fail to recognize the significance of wildlife crime in terms of economic value to criminals and cost to ecosystems. This failure to adequately prioritize wildlife crime and to enforce wildlife laws is what makes it highly lucrative to transnational criminal syndicates.
3. Park rangers, game wardens, and other wildlife crime fighters operating in Africa represent order in rural and wild places under siege by terrorist and other criminal enterprises, transforming these traditional protectors of wildlife and protected areas into a first line of defense against terrorism, destabilized states, emerging disease, human rights abuses, and corruption.
4. The United States has a direct interest in stanching terrorism and other transnational crimes, in reducing global instability, in anticipating emerging diseases such as Ebola, and in conserving the world’s most valued wildlife and natural resources for the health of global ecosystems and the enjoyment of current and future generations.
Opportunities for the United States to assist Africa and advance its interests in national security, health, human rights, the environment, and wildlife include:
- Enhanced diplomacy and demand reduction efforts
- An emphasis on information sharing and a free press
- Empowerment of individuals to take leadership on wildlife trafficking issues
- Continued support of U.S. programs that combat wildlife trafficking and international crime, improve enforcement, and protect key species
- Focus on the needs of park rangers and other stewards on the ground in Africa by encouraging networking among rangers around the world and training prosecutors and judges regarding wildlife crime
- Diplomatic engagement of government leaders across the continent regarding wildlife crime and violent extremism
Combating The Issue
Insights on what the federal government is doing to combat wildlife trafficking
Shared by Chairman Ed Royce during the National Geographic Forum on Wildlife Trafficking
1. The Department of Defense – through a program authorized by the House Foreign Affairs Committee – is now working with those on the ground to better track and disrupt the criminal syndicates and gangs responsible for today’s unprecedented levels of poaching and wildlife trafficking.
2. Over 40 percent of Congress is now active in the bipartisan International Conservation Caucus, which was founded by Chairman Ed Royce in 2003 with Representatives Clay Shaw, John Tanner, and Tom Udall.
- The International Conservation Caucus Foundation (ICCF) works to strengthen capacity around the world to tackle wildlife trafficking
- ICCF has established Parliamentary Conservation Caucuses, which have passed laws that expand national park protections and enhance the capacity to investigate and sanction conservation crimes in 10 countries throughout Africa so far
3. Chairman Royce worked with House Foreign Affairs Committee Ranking Member Eliot Engel on the END Wildlife Trafficking Act, which was signed into law in 2016. This bill had over 113 total cosponsors from both sides of the aisle and aids the global fight against poaching by:
- Requiring the Secretary of State to track poaching and identify “countries of particular concern”
- Placing wildlife trafficking in the same category as weapons and drug trafficking
- Supporting wildlife enforcement networks and partner countries by strengthening coordination and intelligence sharing on illegal wildlife trafficking
- Pressing the administration to provide security assistance to African countries for counter-wildlife-trafficking efforts
4. Chairman Royce authored and hopes to pass a bill making the possession, sale, and purchase of shark fins illegal in the United States.
- There are still almost 40 states where the purchase of shark fins is legal
- The bipartisan Shark Fin Sales Elimination Act would eradicate shark finning in the United States