Canada Joins Coalition Against Wildlife Trafficking

By Bridget Hunter
USINFO Staff Writer

Washington - Canada is the newest member of an international cooperative effort to end the illegal capture of and trade in wildlife, U.S and Canadian officials announced April 12.

U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for Oceans, Environment and Science Claudia McMurray and Canadian Minister of the Environment John Baird, during an event at Washington’s National Zoo, said Canada is joining the Coalition Against Wildlife Trafficking (CAWT), a U.S. initiative launched in September 2005. CAWT, whose members include the United States, India, the United Kingdom, Australia and 14 conservation and industry organizations, seeks to focus attention and resources on ending the illegal trade in wildlife and wildlife products.

McMurray said the United States is looking forward “to this new stage in U.S.-Canadian environmental cooperation.  With Canada as a member of the coalition against wildlife trafficking, we will build on the coalition’s work to halt the loss of biodiversity by curbing both the supply and demand for wildlife and wildlife products.  Like so many of our other joint efforts, we believe that with the U.S. and Canada working together we can make a real difference in this battle.”

“Wildlife trafficking is undermining wildlife protection and driving many species on our planet to the brink of extinction,” Baird said.  He also underscored the need for international cooperation to address the problem.  To be successful, Baird said, “we cannot act alone. … We need worldwide cooperation if we are to safeguard certain species from extinction.”

CAWT describes itself as “a unique voluntary public-private coalition of like-minded governments and organizations that share a common purpose.” In addition to nation partners, several nongovernmental organizations are working to achieve coalition goals. These include the World Conservation Union, the American Forest and Paper Association, the Cheetah Conservation Fund, Conservation International, Humane Society International, the International Fund for Animal Welfare, the Save The Tiger Fund, the Smithsonian Institution, Traffic International, WildAid, the Wildlife Alliance, the Wildlife Conservation Society and the World Wildlife Fund.

Coalition partners work individually and jointly toward achieving CAWT's goals, with each partner acting where it believes it can contribute most effectively.


Illegal trafficking in wildlife threatens to wipe out species that are vital ecological, economic and cultural resources, not only to their home nations, but also to the global community.

Wildlife trafficking generates an estimated $10 billion in black market revenue each year, according to the State Department’s Bureau of Oceans and International Environmental and Scientific Affairs (OES), and its profitability is beginning to rival that of drug trafficking and arms dealing. It also is becoming attractive to organized crime. Law enforcement authorities are finding with increasing frequency that criminal elements engaged in the illegal capture of or trade in wildlife also are involved in narcotics and arms trafficking.

In addition, public health is threatened by wildlife trafficking because animals smuggled across national borders can carry with them communicable diseases and the risk of infecting humans or domestic animals in transit or destination countries.

At a CAWT meeting in February in Gigiri, Kenya, McMurray, citing “the depth, the scope, the pervasiveness of the illegal trade in wildlife,” acknowledged that stopping the trade would require patience and perseverance.

“Simply launching a partnership, no matter how well-intentioned, will not do. We have to work together and live up to the commitments we have made today if we are to stop this illegal trade. I believe we can and will do it,” she told coalition members.

CAWT seeks to help developing countries combat illegal wildlife capture and trade and encourage conservation and sustainable use of native species by enhancing wildlife governance and law enforcement, fostering cross-border cooperation against wildlife trafficking, developing economic incentives to conserve wildlife or use it sustainably, and reducing demand for illegal wildlife.

The coalition uses a variety of strategies to achieve its goals. In addition to raising awareness of the problem at the highest political levels, CAWT supports public relations campaigns to increase public knowledge of the harm done by trafficking and to change consumption patterns that create demand for illegally taken wildlife.

“Unchecked demand for exotic pets, rare foods, trophies and traditional medicines is driving elephants, tigers, tropical birds and many other species near to extinction, threatening global biodiversity,” according to OES.

CAWT also assists with training workshops for law enforcement personnel, encourages efforts to establish transboundary conservation areas and migration corridors based on established natural ranges and patterns of movement, and supports strengthening legal and judicial systems to set stringent penalties for wildlife crime.

Coalition efforts target supply regions like South Asia, the Amazon, Central Africa and Central America; consumer nations such as China, Japan and the United States that receive the products; and transit regions like southern Africa and some East Asian nations.

Additional information about CAWT is available on the coalition’s Web site.

For more information about U.S. policies, see Environment.