The U.S. works with partners to stop wildlife trafficking

Hippopotamus carrying baby on back in water (© Auscape/Universal Images Group/Getty Images)
A mother and baby hippopotamus in Kenya. (© Auscape/Universal Images Group/Getty Images)

The United States is helping find wildlife criminals and bring them to justice through international cooperation, communication and coordination.

Wildlife Enforcement Networks (WENs) around the world work to reduce nature crimes and protect animals everywhere.

“We have come a long way in improving our capacity to detect and interdict trafficked wildlife and fight nature crime,” said Monica Medina, the assistant secretary of state for Oceans and International Environmental and Scientific Affairs (OES) and special envoy for Biodiversity and Water Resources, after the November 2022 Fourth Global Meeting of WENs, which was supported by OES. “There are numerous examples of cases where transboundary cooperation resulted in seizures and arrests, not to mention successful investigations and prosecutions.”

The International Consortium on Combating Wildlife Crime (ICCWC) — the group that hosts the global meeting — defines wildlife as all wild fauna and flora. Fauna includes animals such as birds and fish, while flora includes timber and non-timber forest products. Wildlife crime includes taking, possessing and trading wild fauna and flora against national or international law.

In 2022, the ICCWC partners, including Interpol, the World Customs Organization and the World Bank, worked with countries’ law enforcement to stop wildlife trafficking in 125 countries around the globe.

Authorities identified 934 wildlife trafficking suspects, along with 2,200 seizures of wildlife products — including 119 big cats, 34 primates, 750 birds and 1,795 reptiles.

U.S. works with South America on WENs

2 scarlet macaws on tree branch (© Fernando Vergara/AP)
Two scarlet macaws at the Bioparque La Reserva in Cota, Colombia, in 2018. The macaws were being sold at a market when the police took custody of them and eventually handed them over to the park for care. (© Fernando Vergara/AP)

Over the past two years, the United States has worked especially closely with the South American Wildlife Enforcement Network (SudWEN) to prevent wildlife trafficking in the Western Hemisphere.

Collaborative efforts include:

    • The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Office of Law Enforcement sending wildlife law enforcement attachés in American embassies in Peru and Brazil to work with local law enforcement agencies to focus on wildlife trafficking.
    • U.S. Agency for International Development continuing to work with the United Nations on the Combating Transnational Conservation Crimes in the Amazon project.
    • The United States working closely with ICCWC partners and SudWEN countries to strengthen SudWEN’s ability to coordinate regional efforts to stop wildlife crime, including providing technical expertise and supporting law enforcement.

“We have to work together to halt these terrible crimes and the risk they pose to our security, people, and the planet,” Medina said.