Management and Conservation

Wildlife Trade

Wildlife trade is the international trade (import and export) of wildlife and products made from wildlife. When legal, wildlife trade can be regulated through laws to protect and minimize impacts to biodiversity. Live wildlife is imported for the pet trade.  Some examples of wildlife products include skins, food, medicines, etc. Trade in wildlife and wildlife products is a multi-billion dollar business that spans the entire globe.

When unregulated, the demand in wildlife trade can quickly become unsustainable by harvesting and taking more plants or animals than the species population can reproduce. Plants and animals that are rare or endangered are particularly vulnerable because they are already few in numbers. Similar to climate change climate change
Climate change includes both global warming driven by human-induced emissions of greenhouse gases and the resulting large-scale shifts in weather patterns. Though there have been previous periods of climatic change, since the mid-20th century humans have had an unprecedented impact on Earth's climate system and caused change on a global scale.

Learn more about climate change
and habitat loss, illegal wildlife trade is another limiting factor that contributes to the loss of biodiversity. Knowing the importance of biodiversity for the health of our planet and global economy, there are efforts in place to help combat illegal wildlife trade.

Legal versus Illegal Wildlife Trade

Present day laws and regulations support the long term survival of plant and animal species. By following the conditions of these regulations, legal wildlife trade is possible. Many species can be legally harvested and traded while protecting population numbers and overall ecosystem health.

Wildlife property that is confiscated and sent to the Repository is often the result of a violation of one or more of these laws. Here is a brief overview of a few of the major U.S. laws and regulations that pertain to wildlife and wildlife trade:

United States Role in the Illegal Wildlife Trade

  • The United States is a destination and transit point for trafficked wildlife and wildlife products, including exotic pets, reptile skin products, traditional medicine ingredients, elephant ivory and rhino horn. Much of the world’s trade – both legal and illegal – in wild animal and plant species is driven by U.S. consumers, originates in our country or passes through our ports on the way to other nations.
  • The United States is also a supplier of native species that are in demand in other countries, including American ginseng, turtles, eels, and other species, some of which are illegally removed from the wild and exported.
  • The United States is committed to combating wildlife trafficking and the transnational organized crime attached to this illicit trade. We recognize that we are part of the problem and we are determined to be a part of the solution.
  • In 2014, the United States invested more than $60 million to end this pernicious trade and plans to devote that much or more in 2015


Wildlife Trafficking 

Example of wildlife trafficking live snakes in a shipment of consumable chips

Wildlife Trafficking is poaching and illegally harvesting protected species for trade in their related parts or products. Not only does this represent a serious threat to conservation, but also to global security. Wildlife trafficking is a serious crime that undermines security across nations and fuels instability. Large scale illegal trade in protected and managed species can decimate populations for charismatic species like elephants, rhinos, and tigers.

Wildlife trafficking reduces the economic, social and environmental benefits of wildlife, while generating billions of dollars in illicit revenues each year, contributing to the illegal economy, fueling instability and undermining security. Global illegal wildlife trade is estimated to generate billions of dollars annually. Along with other forms of trafficking for arms, drugs, and human trafficking, organized criminal syndicates seek to profit from wildlife trafficking which can be seen as high return and low risk. As long as there is demand from consumers, criminals will continue to attempt to supply the demand.

Our Services


Example of items a facility may receive on a loan request


The Loan Program at the National Wildlife Property Repository seeks to aid conservation education and scientific research through property loans and/or donations. Many of the items we receive can be loaned to educational facilities, nonprofit organizations, and conservation agencies to aid in teaching about endangered species and wildlife. Other items can be sent to scientific institutions to be used in research to develop better identification and/or protection of wildlife. If interested in using wildlife property at your facility or organization for educational purposes, please submit a written request on official letterhead with the following information:


  • Official letterhead with name, address, phone number and email of organization and responsible individual requesting on behalf of the facility. The request needs to be signed by upper management within the organization (Director, Dean, Principal etc.)Responsible point of contact or custodial officer of individual responsible for maintaining and securing of the loaned wildlife items. Although this can be another member of the same organization, all contact information such as name, phone number, and email also need to be listed.
  • Brief description of the programing at the facility and the intended use of the loaned wildlife items
  • A complete list of items requesting, desired and what species represented. The Repository will not provide a list of items within our inventory. It is the facilities responsibility to provide us with a list of species represented in their educational programming and we will do our best to match property items to your needs. Examples: mounted specimens, tanned or untanned skins, medicinal products, food products, bones, or products (shoe, purse, jewelry).


Photo collage of general public wildlife abandonments to the Service


Members of the public wishing to abandon (donate) their unwanted wildlife items and ivory may contact the Wildlife Property Repository directly regarding items no longer wanted. This includes family heirlooms, trophies or artifacts that may have been legally obtained prior to bans. Please note that the Repository may not accept all wildlife items and all items are subject to review by one of our Wildlife Repository Specialists. For guidance, please email us at or call (303)287-2110.


Abandonments processing requests need to include the following information and completed forms:

  • Name, address, phone, and email of individual wishing to abandon an item(s)
  • Description and quantity of the item(s) that will be considered for abandonment and a brief description of how they were obtained.
  • Contact a Wildlife Repository Specialist at or (303) 287-2110 and work with them on submitting a completed U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Abandonment Form (Form 3-2096)
  • A Wildlife Repository Specialist will review the form and assist with any questions prior to item(s) being shipped to the Repository.
  • A final copy of the signed form will be provided to the via email or regular mail following receipt of the item(s).
  • Shipments should be to the Repository's address with the Attention to: Property Abandonments on the label.
The cost of shipping items to the Repository is the sole responsibility of the donor. Please discuss preferred shipping options with Repository Staff before sending any objects to the Repository. Such abandonments are not consummated and do not become property of the Service until a signed acknowledgement is sent back to the donor. Claiming any value for such "donations" for Federal, State, or local tax purposes is the sole responsibility of the donor. The Service will not in any way value such items. By submitting such abandoned donation, the donor agrees that upon acceptance such wildlife property items will become the sole property of the Service, without recourse.

Our Projects and Research

One central function of the National Wildlife Property Repository is education by informing the public, policy makers, media, educators and students of the plight of imperiled species and the efforts that wildlife trafficking can have on their continued existence.  

We are currently developing new educational programming that will be available at a later date.  We apologize for the inconvenience.  

Our Laws and Regulations

CITES-Convention on International Trade of Endangered Species of Wild Flora and Fauna

The Convention on International Trade of Endangered Species is an international treaty enacted in 1975 designed to ensure that international trade in animals and plants won't threaten their survival in the wild.  The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is responsible for carrying out the provisions under CITES for the United States, which is a signatory party along with 183 other countries around the world.  Under CITES, species can be listed on three different "Appendices" according to how their current populations are doing in the wild and how much protection they need.  

  • Appendix I - Species are the most protected because they demonstrate the greatest threat of extinction.  Commercial trade in these species is prohibited.  Examples of Appendix I include tigers, rhinos, gorillas and elephants.  
  • Appendix II - Species are not under immediate threat of extinction but warrant close monitoring in trade to ensure their numbers are sustainable.  These species require an export permit for international trade.
  • Appendix III - Species have regulated trade by certain countries (parties) and are listed to solicit the cooperation of other countries so that the trade in these species does not become unsustainable.  

A CITES permit issued by U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is required to import live or dead specimens, parts and products made from wildlife into the United States.  

Endangered Species Act

The Endangered Species Act (ESA) was enacted in 1973 to protect populations of plants and animals that face imminent threat of extinction or endangerment in the future. Protection may also extend to the habitat of these species that is critical for their survival. Unless permitted, it is illegal to import, export, take, transport, sell, purchase, or engage in interstate and foreign commerce species listed as endangered or threatened. The ESA also implements CITES to protect species that are at risk due to wildlife trade. The number of species on the list changes as new species are added or delisted if population numbers are deemed to have passed the threat of extinction.  

Lacey Act

One of the first wildlife protection laws, The Lacey Act makes it illegal to have any wildlife that was taken in violation of international, federal, state, or Indian tribal law. First enacted in 1900, the Lacey Act prohibits interstate and foreign trafficking of wildlife. This covers all species protected under CITES Appendices. The National Wildlife Property Repository operates off funds generated by Lacey Act violation fees.  

Marine Mammal Protection Act

This act prohibits people from taking, importing, transporting, purchasing, and selling marine mammals and their products unless they obtain a special exemption. These mammals are protected in any ocean/sea or land controlled by the United States. Some examples of the species protected by this act include whales, dolphins, seals, sea lions, walrus, polar bears, manatees, and sea otters.  

Migratory Bird Treaty Act 

The Migratory Bird Treaty Act (MBTA) protects almost all native North American birds by prohibiting killing, capture, and possession for meat, pet or feather trade. MBTA is now an international agreement among the United States, Mexico, Canada, Russia, and Japan. Under the act, it is also unlawful to use the nests, eggs, and feathers even if they were naturally molted. Regulated hunting allows for the taking of game birds during established seasons.