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.

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

Announcements and Stories

Image of Scarlet macaw with text "Watch Our New Film about Protecting Scarlet Macaws from Trafficking!"Using Sniffer Dogs to Combat Wildlife Trafficking in Kazakhastan

Credit: ALARM/EAGLE Network

African Wildlife Trafficking Bust Stories from 2016

The EAGLE Network is one of the Service's main partners in Africa, where it is spearheading the fight against widllife crime and corruption in a growing number of countries. When the model for the EAGLE Network first took shape in Cameroon in 2003, there were virtually no arrests for wildlife crime across Central and West Africa. Since then, the Network's efforts have shifted the baseline from zero prosecutions to the arrest of one major wildlife trafficker per week. Read more about some of the EAGLE Network's best wildlife trafficking bust stories from 2016, and find out how this ties into the Service's strategy to combat wildlife trafficking in Central Africa.

Partnership with JetBlue Creates On-board Video to Help Travelers "Buy Informed"

November 18: The Service, JetBlue and the U.S. Wildlife Trafficking Alliance are educating travelers about how to prevent wildlife trafficking when traveling to the Caribbean. Thanks to this partnership, JetBlue is now airing a short film on all flights informing customers of the role they play in protecting Caribbean wildlife and preserving the region’s beauty. The video, featuring local Caribbean conservation heroes, will arm travelers with the right questions to ask when purchasing wildlife and plant-related products. 

Image: Confiscated coral necklace. Levi Novey / USFWS
News Release »
View Video »

Credit: APOPO's-HeroRATS

Service Grants to Fund Trained Rats, Other Innovative Approaches to Protect Wildlife from Trafficking

October 21: Rats are smart with a keen sense of smell, and one species -- the African giant pouched rat -- is being tested to see if it can help detect illegal shipments of pangolins and hardwood timber in Tanzania. Such innovative approaches to halt wildlife poaching and trafficking are being rewarded to the tune of more than $1.2 million in Service grants for 12 projects in 11 countries.

News Release »
Project Summaries for FY16 Grants to Combat Wildlife Trafficking

Notice of Funding Opportunity: Grants to Combat Wildlife Trafficking 
February 22, 2016 - On February 11, 2014, President Obama issued the National Strategy for Combating Wildlife Trafficking. Incorporating recommendations from the Advisory Council on Wildlife Trafficking, the Implementation Plan was released on February 11, 2015 to guide and direct the efforts of Federal agencies in executing the Strategy. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) is identified as a lead or participating agency in all 24 Implementation Plan Objectives, reflecting the commitment and history of USFWS International Affairs and Office of Law Enforcement in the fight against the illegal wildlife trade. To complement and facilitate existing efforts, USFWS has developed a Notice of Funding Opportunity to provide financial assistance to projects that advance counter-wildlife trafficking activities (wildlife defined to include terrestrial and aquatic species and timber) as outlined in the Next Steps of the National Strategy’s Implementation Plan.  Learn more.

U.S. to Destroy More than One Ton of Confiscated Ivory
June 15, 2015 - On Friday, the Service, with wildlife and conservation partners, will publicly crush more than one ton of confiscated ivory in Times Square in downtown New York City. As with the first Ivory Crush in 2013, the event sends the message that the United States will not tolerate this illegal trade. The Crush will also educate people about the harm buying ivory can do and how they can help in the fight to save the elephants. Learn more.

Service Commends China for Ivory Destruction
May 29, 2015 - The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service commends the Government of the People’s Republic of China for its destruction of more than 1400 pounds of illegal ivory in Beijing and for committing to the eventual phase-out of the processing and sale of ivory and ivory products. These actions underscore their commitment to halt the illegal wildlife trade and raise awareness within China and around the globe about a wildlife trafficking crisis that threatens the future of African elephants, rhinoceros, tigers, and a host of other species. 

USFWS Statement
Photos from the event

Minnesota Teacher Introduces High-School Students to Wildlife Forensics
April 6, 2015 - Last month, the Service’s Forensics Laboratory – the only lab in the world dedicated to crimes against wildlife – held a live webcast to provide a behind-the-scenes glimpse into the world of wildlife forensics. The webcast was a useful tool to Minnesota biology teacher Letitia Laske, who spearheaded a wildlife forensics high school class in Minnesota’s Brainerd High School and is currently in her first year of teaching it to juniors and seniors.

Public Meeting of the Advisory Council on Wildlife Trafficking Scheduled for April 23, 2015
April 2, 2015 - The Advisory Council on Wildlife Trafficking has announced its next meeting for Thursday, April 23, 2015, from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Eastern Time. Members of this non-government advisory body represent the private sector, nongovernmental organizations, and others who are in a position to provide expertise and support to federal agencies working to combat wildlife trafficking. To attend the meeting in person, you must register by close of business on April 15, 2015. For more information on participating in the meeting, or submitting questions or comments, please refer to the Federal Register notice.

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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