Wildlife Trafficking

In the past decade, wildlife trafficking – the poaching or other taking of protected or managed species and the illegal trade in wildlife and their related parts and products – has escalated into an international crisis. Wildlife trafficking is both a critical conservation concern and a threat to global security with significant effects on the national interests of the United States and the interests of our partners around the world.

To address these growing threats, the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service has a four-pronged approach to combat wildlife trafficking:

  1. Law enforcement to target and stop illicit trade;
  2. Technical assistance and grants to build in-country capacity;
  3. Working to ensure sustainable legal trade through CITES; and
  4. Reducing demand for illegal products in consumer countries, including the United States

Operation Cobra II Nets Wildlife Traffickers in Africa and Asia

Suspected Rhino Horn Trafficking

Credit: Operation Cobra II

The Service, working through the Rhinoceros and Tiger Conservation Fund and African Elephant Conservation Fund, was one of the principal supporters of "Operation Cobra II"- a ground-breaking, global operation to fight poaching and wildlife trafficking .Law enforcement officers from 28 countries just announced completion of the month-long operation, which resulted in more than 400 arrests of wildlife criminals and 350 major wildlife seizures across Africa and Asia, including seizure of over three metric tons of elephant ivory, 36 rhino horns and 1,000 skins of protected species.

Read more about Operation Cobra II.

Hearing: International Wildlife Trafficking Threats to Conservation and National Security

Director Dan Ashe, testified before the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Foreign Affairs regarding the National Strategy for Combating Wildlife Trafficking on February 26, 2014. To hear his testimony, click to 29:44 in the video timeline below.

National Geographic video on USFWS Ivory Crush


Wildlife Trafficking Featured at U.S.-Africa Leaders’ Summit in Washington, D.C.
August 4, 2014 - On August 4th at the first U.S.-Africa Leaders’ Summit, held in Washington, D.C., African leaders took a strong stance against illegal wildlife trade. In a Signature event on "Combating Wildlife Trafficking" hosted by U.S. Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell, African leaders agreed to work with the U.S. to continue to strengthen regional and international cooperation. Read more about this event in our latest blog post. Watch the meeting here.

Advisory Council on Wildlife Trafficking Holds Third Public Meeting
06/09/2014 - The Advisory Council on Wildlife Trafficking (Advisory Council), called upon by President Obama's Executive Order in 2013, held a third public meeting on Monday, June 9th, to consider recommendations for the Presidential Task Force on Wildlife Trafficking (Task Force), discuss administrative topics, and hear public comments and questions. At this meeting, the Advisory Council adopted, by consensus, a set of recommendations to implement the National Strategy on Wildlife Trafficking and has submitted these recommendations to the Task Force for consideration.

Listen to the audio of the meeting here. (Full transcript will be available soon)

Advisory Council Recommendations Submitted to the Presidential Task Forcepdf

June 9, 2014 Meeting Agendapdf

Service Takes Next Steps in Commercial Elephant Ivory Trade Ban
05/15/2014 - The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service today announced two actions relating to commercial trade in elephant ivory. These actions will help ensure that domestic markets do not contribute to the decline of African elephants in the wild, while also allowing certain activities to continue that we do not believe are contributing to poaching or illegal trade. Click here for the full press release. Click here for the Ivory Ban Q & A.

Advisory Council Members

Announcement Archive

In the News

News Archive

Service ‘Crashes’ Down on Suspected Rhino Horn Trafficking

Suspected Rhino Horn Trafficking

Credit: USFWS

Operation Crash is an ongoing nationwide criminal investigation led by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service that is addressing all aspects of U.S. involvement in the black market rhino horn trade.The first phase of this probe, which has focused on the unlawful purchase and outbound smuggling of rhino horn from the United States, has resulted in 15 arrests and nine convictions to date.(read more)

Charges filed against these defendants include conspiracy, smuggling, money laundering, tax evasion, bribery, and making false documents as well as violations of the Endangered Species Act and Lacey Act (a law that protects wildlife and plants from illegal trafficking). Eight of those arrested were taken into custody in February 2012 as part of a nationwide “takedown” that involved more than 140 law enforcement officers executing search warrants in 13 States. Successes in 2013 include the arrests and indictments of several other individuals (including Chinese and U.S. antiques dealers) who were operating a second large-scale rhino horn and elephant ivory smuggling network. (read less)

Read more about Operation Crash.

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