Actress Bo Derek, who is a WildAid Board Member and has also served as a Special Envoy of the Secretary of State for Wildlife Trafficking, spoke passionately about the need to protect wildlife from trafficking. She became interested in the issue after visiting the Galapagos Islands in Ecuador. Photo by Frank Kohn/USFWS
We recently stopped by Capitol Hill to highlight the work of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and partners including JetBlue, Discovery Communications, WildAid and the U.S. Wildlife Trafficking Alliance in the fight against wildlife trafficking. We held a briefing for congressional staff and the public, which allowed us to amplify our messages to Americans and consumers abroad about how they can help reduce demand for illegally traded wildlife. People who travel abroad will sometimes unknowingly make purchases of food, souvenirs, clothing and medicine that are made from imperiled wildlife. Endangered and threatened animals may even be sold as pets.
Here’s a quick overview of how each of these partners is making a difference:
Our Danielle Kessler moderated a panel with partners including WildAid, Discovery Communications, JetBlue and the U.S. Wildlife Trafficking Alliance. Photo by Frank Kohn/USFWS
The #StopWildlifeTrafficking campaign features celebrities in airport billboards and PSAs that ask consumers to protect wildlife by questioning their purchasing choices, particularly for items like ivory. The cast of the Walking Dead TV show is featured in one PSA; a broader range of celebrities are featured in other PSAs. And the video infographic below provides some of the hard-truths about how trafficking is impacting species. More PSAs with additional celebrities will soon be released.
A WildAid campaign in China featuring basketball star Yao Ming and other celebrities has helped to reduce consumption of shark-fin soup by 50-70 percent. This is just one example of WildAid’s success in reducing demand, and we’re hopeful that their expertise in changing consumer behavior will lead to similar successes for species being impacted by U.S. consumers.
The Caribbean is one of the most popular destinations for many of JetBlue’s flights and protecting what makes the Caribbean special is critical to the company’s business interests. JetBlue in partnership with the Service produced a short film featuring local conservation leaders in Jamaica, Trinidad and Tobago, and Grenada that seeks to empower consumers to serve as guardians of Caribbean wildlife such as sea turtles, coral, and blue and gold macaws. The film is being shown on JetBlue flights, which carry 35 million passengers each year.
In September, at the most recent international wildlife trade conference (CITES COP17), Discovery Communications released a new PSA created in collaboration with the Service. It is narrated by actor Edward Norton and is now airing on Discovery networks in the United States and abroad. The PSA was part of the company’s mission to not only inspire people, but also empower them to protect the world’s wildlife and natural wonders
U.S. Wildlife Trafficking Alliance
The U.S. Wildlife Trafficking Alliance has recruited a large number of companies and organizations under one umbrella to work together to take on the wildlife trafficking crisis. Sara Walker, Executive Director of the Alliance, explained that while it’s not an issue that has been on the radar (yet) for many companies, there is relevance and a role for them to play in helping to protect wildlife. Some big names have already joined the Alliance in addition to Discovery, JetBlue, and WildAid, including Google, eBay, Ralph Lauren, and Tiffany.
Senator Jeff Flake (R-AZ) meets with Office of Law Enforcement Chief, William C, Woody, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service staff, Bo Derek and our partners. Senator Flake was a lead co-sponsor of the recently passed END Wildlife Trafficking Act. Photo by USFWS
Congressional Interest in Combating Wildlife Trafficking is Significant
Giving us new tools to fight wildlife trafficking, last year Congress passed, and the President signed into law the Eliminate, Neutralize and Disrupt (END) Wildlife Trafficking Act. This legislation demonstrates that protection of wildlife, both domestically and abroad, is a priority for Congress that has broad, bipartisan support.
Following the briefing, other Members of Congress and their staff took time to meet with us and our partners to discuss the progress we are making.
Senator Coons, one of the lead sponsors of the END Wildlife Trafficking Act said, “The collaboration of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service with private sector leaders is essential if we are to meet our goal of quickly and effectively combatting wildlife trafficking and poaching. Countless species worldwide, including well-known ones like elephants, sea turtles, and rhinos, could potentially be lost if we don’t take action. The partnership of well-respected advocacy organizations, like WildAid and the U.S. Wildlife Trafficking Alliance, will be critical to combine the strength of all sectors to empower Americans to know what they can do to help protect wildlife around the world. I am proud of the work Congress did earlier this year to pass the END Wildlife Trafficking Act, which provides congressional authorization and guidance for this important work.”
Senator Flake, another lead sponsor of the END Wildlife Trafficking Act stated: “Wildlife trafficking is a multibillion-dollar industry that not only threatens to extinguish iconic wildlife, but also fuels an illicit industry that threatens global security. I am thankful that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and other stakeholders are bringing awareness to this important issue.”
Congressman Mike Thompson (D-CA-5) meets with Bo Derek, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service staff and our partners. Photo by USFWS
The Service looks forward to continuing to work with Congress on the important issue of combating wildlife trafficking.