Do You Know How to Spot Trafficking?
Wildlife trafficking is a serious problem. In fact, it’s the fourth largest transnational crime behind drug, firearm and human trafficking. Many people don’t realize that the United States is one of the largest markets for illegal wildlife products. For a variety of reasons, despite the thought of numerous animal species going extinct, the demand for these products is still high.
As consumers, the best thing we can do is learn what wildlife trafficking is. It isn’t as straightforward as the firearm trade. Wildlife trafficking comes in many forms, from animal parts, such as ivory and rhino horn, to “medicines” made from animals, to actual living animals being smuggled as pets. Jewelry, ornaments or other trinkets may be made from animal parts, and sometimes clothing labeled as faux fur is in reality made from animals too. It can be sneaky, so we have to be careful.
If you travel often, or simply shop a lot, there are a ton of great resources on how you can be aware of wildlife trafficking. Thanks to the Association of Zoos & Aquariums and the U.S. Wildlife Trafficking Alliance, you can find some guides on shopping at home and abroad as well as videos to share with friends and family to spread the word about trafficking.
There’s also a short list of what you should never buy and what you should buy carefully. Never buy ivory, rhino products, tiger products, sea turtle products or medicines made from any animal. These products are the main reason these animals are being poached to extinction, so just say “no.”
Other products to be wary around are things made using reptile leather, shells, coral, feathers, furs and wools. While some of these products may be legal with the proper permits or may claim to be faux or made from substitute materials, others may be made illegally from endangered animals. You can tell whether fur is faux or real by examining the backing – if it’s leathery, that means it’s a real animal hide, but if it’s a woven material, it’s faux. Animal hair is often different lengths too, and faux fur is usually cut to be the same length.
You should feel free to ask what the product is made from and where it is from, and if you get the sense it is an illegal product, say “no” to it too.
Wildlife trafficking is a massive industry, and while airports and wildlife organizations do a fantastic job catching and seizing illegal products during transport, many illegal products still find a way through. It’s up to us to reduce the demand for illegal products so the suppliers lose interest and the senseless poaching comes to an end.