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U.S. Department of State Echoes WildAid Mission

Threatening the security and prosperity of wildlife and people around the world, the illegal wildlife trade has been raising serious concerns among the U.S. State Department, who last month revealed their plan to combat wildlife trafficking in a partnership meeting led by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

Recognizing the global reach of the illegal wildlife trade, its threat to public health, and national and economic security, the Department of State called for a global concerted response to dismantle the rebel militia and organized criminals operating the trade. Though the illegal wildlife trade may begin in Africa and Asia, where wildlife are targeted, the trade is driven by consumer demand originating in each and every nation; illegal wildlife products, like ivory and rhino horn, populate markets across the world.

Similar to strategies employed by international wildlife organizations, like WildAid and TRAFFIC, Clinton outlined five critical steps needed to stem the illegal wildlife trade. Chief among these were the need to reach beyond governments to enlist the support of the public as well as to forge traditional and unique partnerships across governments, businesses, scientists, civil society, and activists.

This December the U.S. Department of State will embark on one of many first steps to address illegal wildlife trafficking. Similar to WildAid’s campaign “When they buying stops, the killing can too”, the Department of State will partner up with local activists to spearhead a global public outreach campaign targeting the consumer psyche.

“We want to make buying products from trafficked wildlife and endangered species socially unacceptable. We want friends to tell friends that they don’t want friends that who ingest, display, or otherwise use products that come from endangered species anywhere in the world,” said Clinton.

In addition to coordinating efforts with wildlife NGOs and governments, Clinton also highlighted the power of less traditional stakeholders, such as air and cruise line companies, in forming a concerted global response.  

By joining forces with public figures, such as Yao Ming and Sir Richard Branson, as well as with businesses like Virgin Unite, WildAid has exemplified how unique partnerships can extend the reach of conservation efforts. This August, Yao Ming directed the Chinese public eye to the ivory and rhino horn trade as he traveled to Africa with WildAid to document their effect on local wildlife populations and people. Virgin Unite also helps spread WildAid’s mission by airing WildAid’s public service announcements during routine flights.

Clinton also cited the need to learn from each other through better communication amongst scientists and regional wildlife enforcement networks across the world. The State Department has pledged $100,000 towards the creation of a Global System of Regional Wildlife Enforcement Networks, an internationally accessible database that will compile the strategies and lessons learned from regional wildlife enforcement networks already operating throughout the world.  

Last month’s press conference was not the first time the U.S. government has expressed concern over the illegal wildlife trade. This May Senator John Kerry brought together prominent experts to discuss the implications of the ivory trade in a meeting held by the U.S. Senate Committee on Foreign Relations.

Learn more about the U.S. Department of State’s plan to combat illegal wildlife trafficking.