The world’s law enforcement agencies are cooperating to take down the criminals who profit from the deaths of endangered species. And there’s no time to lose.

The population of the world’s largest land animal is shrinking as poachers slaughter African elephants for their ivory tusks. These majestic, intelligent animals might survive only a few more decades if the bloodshed continues, experts said at an international conference on wildlife trafficking in Botswana on March 25.

One year after the London Declaration on the Illegal Wildlife Trade, delegates from more than 30 nations reconvened to take stock on their progress and improve international cooperation.

U.S. Assistant Attorney General John C. Cruden outlined how the United States is using a range of government powers to fulfill the 2014 London commitments. A three-pronged attack on wildlife trafficking aims to:

  • Strengthen domestic and global enforcement.
  • Reduce demand for illegally traded wildlife.
  • Build international cooperation and commitment to combat wildlife trafficking.
Authorities burned six tons of illegal ivory in Ethiopia in March 2015. Destroying ivory destroys the profit motive for wildlife traffickers. (© AP Images)

“Prosecutors in the United States work closely with investigators around the country and around the world to bring strong cases,” Cruden said. Strong, effective law enforcement at all levels will “take the profit out of wildlife trafficking.”

In the past year, the United States has:

  • Prosecuted and secured convictions on numerous cases involving black-market sales of banned products such as rhinoceros horn, elephant ivory and narwhal tusks.
  • Seized millions in illegal profits and products.
  • Stregthened domestic controls over import, export and sale of African elephant ivory, rhino horn and other banned products.
  • Invested about $60 million in international programs aimed at stopping wildlife trafficking in the Republic of the Congo, Cameroon, the Central African Republic and elsewhere.

President Obama included wildlife-trafficking controls in 2014 discussions with other leaders, Cruden said. The U.S. strategy relies on partnership across all levels of government and the private sector in a united assault against the “pernicious illegal trade in wildlife,” he said.

International law enforcement cooperation against wildlife trafficking continued even as the Botswana meeting unfolded. On March 25, U.S. and Canadian law enforcement announced a 30-month jail sentence for a Canadian antiques dealer who was caught smuggling items made of rhinoceros horns, elephant ivory and coral.

Consumers have the greatest power to combat illegal wildlife trafficking. Refuse to buy products made from endangered animals.