Local police in Seattle, Washington have apparently been cracking down on the smuggling and trade of exotic (and endangered) animal products. Apparently Western Washington is a key trans-shipping station (possibly due to it’s location on the country’s west coast). Check out the following news report from ABC’s Komo News 4, a local Seattle station, here. It’s great to see that the local law enforcement is taking an interest in the problem. The report does mention bear parts, including gal bladders, although interestingly it refers to the American Black Bear as falling victim rather than the Asiatic Black Bear. This indicates a disturbing trend; as bile farms are being shut down, merchants and smugglers are obviously looking elsewhere for their bear products.
According to another news article on the illegal smuggling of animal parts, the US Fish and Wildlife Service has the world’s only forensic lab dedicated to investigating ‘crimes’ against animals. I think that this is really cool! Unfortunately the rest of the article is quite grim. The reporter, writing for for CNBC, interviewed a representative of the World Wildlife Fund (WWF). Crawford Allan is the Director of Traffic at the North American office of the WWF’s wildlife trade arm. He explained that, if anything, traffic in animal parts is on the rise, due to the profitability of the industry and the light international penalties when compared with other illegal activities such as smuggling drugs. “It’s high profit and low risk,” he says, describing the incredible quantities of illegal animal products that have been seized in recent years. In 2011, apparently 23 tonnes of elephant ivory were seized, the largest recorded amount since the record began in 1989. According to Allan, “That equates to about two and a half thousand elephants that were killed for that ivory that was seized,” and he estimates that what is seized is only about 10% of the total product on the market.
Bleak figures, that’s for sure. You can read the rest of the article here.
I do hope that if we can raise awareness about these issues perhaps international penalties for animal cruelty/poaching/etc will be toughened, dissuading people from getting involved in the trade to begin with. Of course the issue is more complicated since many of the people participating are living in the developing world, in economic situations where they may have few opportunities to pull themselves out of poverty… but that is a whole other can of worms, so to speak.