Wildlife Crime Included as a Top Law Enforcement Priority

leopard pelt and ivory carvings at the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
Leopard pelt and ivory carvings at the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
Credit: United States Fish and Wildlife Service

Late last week, President Trump signed a new Executive Order whose goal is to “strengthen enforcement of Federal law in order to thwart transnational criminal organizations…engaged in illicit activities that present a threat to public safety and national security.”

In an important step, the Executive Order includes wildlife crime as one of those illegal activities that can pose threats to both public safety and national security. While wildlife crime’s devastating effect on the plants and animal that share our world is starting to be well understood, its connection to national security threats is often overlooked.

For example, it is generally accepted that militias that cause regional instability in Africa, such as the Lord’s Resistance Army and Sudan’s Janjaweed, are heavily invested in ivory trade. Although more controversial, others have asserted that terrorist organizations such as El Shabaab, also gain from participating in wildlife trafficking.

Including crimes relating to wildlife in the list of activities that need to be prioritized by federal enforcement agencies hopefully will draw greater attention to these threats and provide a platform for more action.