In a surprising move, President Trump signed a new executive order that may help in the battle against the illegal wildlife trade. The goal of the order is to strengthen law enforcement against transnational organizations engaged in “illicit activities that present a threat to public safety and national security.” Included among those illegal activities are crimes against wildlife.
While poaching’s devastating effect on everything from elephants to pangolins is well understood, its threats to national security are often overlooked. For example, the Lord’s Resistance Army and Sudan’s Janjaweed are two militias contributing to regional instability in Africa. Both are also heavily invested in the ivory trade. There have even been reports that terrorist organizations such as El Shabaab might profit from wildlife trafficking as well. By prioritizing the illegal wildlife trade and drawing attention to connections to organized crime, federal enforcement agencies could protect both people and biodiversity.