Putting an End to Wildlife Trafficking

January 20, 2022

At O’Hare International Airport, two deliveries originating from Wichita, Kansas and destined for Beijing, China are seized — all thanks to a wildlife detection dog named Lancer. Between the two shipments, 25 box turtles are detected and confiscated. Curator Dan Boehm receives a call from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS), and the 25 confiscated turtles make their way to Lincoln Park Zoo while the case is being investigated.

An eastern box turtle.

From caring for and providing temporary and/or permanent homes for confiscated Cameroon chameleons, Madagascar tree boas, African giant pouched rats, New Guinea crocodiles, an African crested porcupine, and many more species, the zoo is all too familiar with the devastating effects of the wildlife trafficking industry.

Between 2009-2016, USFWS recorded 19,301 wildlife seizures, or animals imported illegally to the United States, from 186 countries.

The United States is one of the largest consumers of illegal wildlife and wildlife products in the world.

The illegal trafficking of wildlife products is driving the decline of many species. Rhinos and tigers are killed and harvested for traditional medicine, while reptiles and birds are captured and sold as pets.

Did you know that this illicit trade is valued anywhere between $7-$23 billion per year, behind only drugs, human trafficking, and weapons? Many species are heavily traded without regard for welfare of the individuals or the impact to their wild populations.

Lincoln Park Zoo cares for many of the species that are affected by illegal wildlife trafficking, including the Asian small-clawed otter, eastern box turtle, pygmy slow loris, Bali myna, Hoffmann’s two-toed sloth, and Chinese hwamei. Reptiles and invertebrates represent some of the most heavily traded and trafficked species.

Illegal trade even affects plants, too. Thousands of Dudleya, an endangered succulent native to California, were poached in 2018.

A Hoffmann’s two-toed sloth. Photo courtesy of Jill Guziec.

How can you help put an end to illegal wildlife trafficking? Find out, below, and Take Action With Us.

Pause Before Posting

Social media can contribute to illegal wildlife trafficking. Images and videos of exotic animals in human settings can entice individuals to want to engage with exotic animals. You can be a part of the solution by avoiding sharing images and videos of exotic animals as pets or performers. When traveling, do not pose for photos with exotic pets or pay to see any that live in poor conditions.


Ask for the Origin

While traveling, be an inquisitive shopper. Avoid buying products sourced from wild animals. If you are uncertain, be sure to ask for the origin of the product. This can reduce your chance of unknowingly supporting practices that harm wildlife.


Use Your Voice

Spread the word and tell friends and family how wildlife trafficking harms animal populations. In addition, support legislation that aims to eliminate wildlife trade and trafficking.

How is Lincoln Park Zoo working to put an end to wildlife trafficking?

Lincoln Park Zoo is a partner in the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) Wildlife Trafficking Alliance. This alliance works to raise awareness of trafficking and the illegal wildlife trade. The zoo also works very closely with the AZA CITES (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Flora and Fauna) sub-committee.

For decades, Lincoln Park Zoo has been involved in Bali myna conservation. Conservation and Science staff is represented on the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Species Survival Commission (SSC) Asian Songbird Trade Specialist group, which works to mitigate the decline of Asian songbird populations. Zoo staff also lead the Bali Myna Species Survival Plan®.

A Bali myna. Photo courtesy of Todd Rosenberg/Lincoln Park Zoo.

In the past 25 years, Lincoln Park Zoo has temporarily and/or permanently taken possession of over 270 illegally trafficked animals confiscated by USFWS officials at O’Hare International Airport.

The zoo is also using its voice as a leading scientific institution to support laws and legislation to protect species from illegal wildlife trade and trafficking, such as the Big Cat Public Safety Act and the Captive Primate Safety Act.

By Taking Action With Us, together we can put an end to wildlife trafficking.


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