The excessive traffic in wildlife is a problem that needs solving.
Trafficking in wildlife is becoming a major criminal enterprise. Countries are working to identify ways to improve the international law enforcement response and protect endangered plants and animals.
The director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Daniel Ashe, explained the need for stronger enforcement March 4 in a briefing with reporters at the beginning of the conference on the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) getting under way in Bangkok.
Speaking as head of the U.S. delegation to the CITES conference, Ashe said adopting international regulations for species protection is just one step, which must be followed by effective enforcement.
“How can we provide appropriate assistance so that countries, particularly developing countries, will have the law enforcement capacity, the management capacity, to ensure that these provisions are carried out?”
Ashe asked. He said this is an important question being discussed by representatives of the 178 nations that are parties to the convention.
The CITES meeting began March 3 with CITES Secretary-General John Scanlon telling the delegates, “We know the way, but we need the collective will.” He spoke to about 2,000 delegates representing member nations, nongovernmental organizations and intergovernmental organizations.
Effective enforcement is one key activity to protect endangered species, Ashe said, but so is public education. Demand for products made from endangered species is what drives the slaughter of elephants for their ivory tusks, or the hunt for tiger pelts and bones.
Ashe said better educating the public about the harm caused by consumption of these products is another important step in combating the trafficking.
The bones of the tiger, for example, are thought to have great healing powers in some cultures. Ashe said that belief can be changed. “We have worked effectively to develop education campaigns that there are modern medicines, proven medicines, that are much more effective in dealing with the same maladies.”