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Efforts to Combat Wildlife Trafficking at the Department of Justice
African elephant, photo credit: Fish and Wildlife Service
The Fight against Wildlife trafficking
On February 11, 2014, President Obama released the National Strategy for Combating Wildlife Trafficking demonstrating the United States’ deep commitment to ending this pernicious trade that threatens security, sustainable economic development, and the very survival of the world’s most iconic and endangered species. The National Strategy is an outcome of the July 1, 2013, Executive Order No. 13648, which established a Presidential Task Force on Wildlife Trafficking and charged it to develop the National Strategy to Combat Wildlife Trafficking as a means to enhance coordination of U.S. Government efforts. The Task Force is co-chaired by the Secretaries of State and the Interior and the Attorney General, or their designees, and includes senior-level representatives from 14 additional federal departments and agencies.

The Strategy describes a “whole of government” approach to tackle this growing threat that identifies priority areas for interagency coordination, with the objectives of harnessing and strategically applying the full breadth of U.S. Government resources. The National Strategy identifies three key priorities: strengthening domestic and global enforcement, including assessing the related laws, regulations, and enforcement tools; reducing demand for illegally traded wildlife; and building international cooperation and public-private partnerships.

The Department of Justice’s Environment and Natural Resources Division (ENRD), together with United States Attorneys’ Offices across the country, is responsible for prosecuting international wildlife trafficking crimes, primarily under the Endangered Species Act and the Lacey Act, as well as crimes related to wildlife trafficking, such as smuggling, money laundering, and criminal conspiracy. The Department also works in the international sphere by assisting and working with enforcement partners in source, transit, and destination countries for illegal trade in protected wildlife. The Justice Department works in close collaboration with the State Department and various international organizations and initiatives, including on efforts to train investigators, prosecutors, and judges, resulting in more proactive international law enforcement operations. Working with the Department of the Interior’s Fish and Wildlife Service and other agencies, ENRD’s Environmental Crimes Section and U.S. Attorneys’ Offices throughout the country have successfully prosecuted numerous cases of illicit wildlife smuggling involving trafficking of rhinoceros horns, elephant ivory, South African leopard, Asian and African tortoises and reptiles, and many other forms of protected wildlife and protected plant species. A snapshot of these cases follows below.

 

Last Updated: July 2014