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Secretary Clinton Recognizes that Illegal Wildlife Trafficking is a National Security Threat

Elly Pepper

Posted November 9, 2012

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Yesterday, at a meeting of federal officials, nongovernmental organizations, and international diplomats at the State Department, Secretary Clinton gave a keynote speech on the ways in which illegal wildlife trafficking threatens our national security.

As Secretary Clinton explained, in recent years, organized criminal syndicates and terrorists have increasingly used the multibillion-dollar trade in wildlife parts to raise funds and move them around. And as these groups have become more prosperous, they have become increasingly well-armed—presenting a national security threat, especially in unstable areas.

Thumbnail image for Polar_bear_walking_along_the_coast.jpg                                      Courtesy of Fish and Wildlife Service

And, of course, there’s another ugly element to illegal wildlife trafficking beyond making criminals rich and creating national security threats, it’s also driving imperiled species closer to extinction. Take the rhino – as the black market demand for its horns has increased, the price of the horns has risen, and poaching levels have skyrocketed.  It’s the same with the polar bear. Hunting pressures on polar bears have increased as prices have risen drastically in response to rising demand. Supplying the international demand for polar bear hides, Canadian local governments have increased their hunting quotas for polar bears to unsustainable levels and provide cover for poachers in Russia.

In short, the illegal trade of wildlife starts a vicious cycle with only negative results: species extinctions, detrimental ecosystem impacts, and decreased national security. 

To address this growing problem, Clinton asked for a renewed commitment by governments, businesses, scientists, and activists to accompany the State Department in fighting back by increasing education, enforcement, and coordination. Here at NRDC, we’re answering her call by continuing our work to ban the international commercial trade in polar bear parts, which will deny cover for the illegal trade.

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Desiree Di MauroNov 10 2012 06:26 PM

Thanks for the update on our government's efforts in this area. If folks would like more background on these various illegal trades, be sure to check out Stolen World by Jennie Erin Smith and The Dangerous World of Butterflies by Laufer. National Geographic also recently had a terrific story on the illegal ivory trade -- for a synopsis of the topic, check out

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