Fairer Trade Pact, In The Interest Of Wildlife

Coleen Schaefer (left) and Doni Sprague display a tiger pelt that was confiscated and is being stored at the National Eagle and Wildlife Repository on the outskirts of Denver. Some 1.5 million items are being held at the facility. The Trans-Pacific Partnership, which is still under negotiation, would punish wildlife trafficking.

Coleen Schaefer (left) and Doni Sprague display a tiger pelt that was confiscated and is being stored at the National Eagle and Wildlife Repository on the outskirts of Denver. Some 1.5 million items are being held at the facility. The Trans-Pacific Partnership, which is still under negotiation, would punish wildlife trafficking. Jackie Northam/NPR

Thanks to National Public Radio (USA) for this story, which has nothing pleasant about it but which signals a positively determined approach to do something substantive about this tragic scourge:

Tiger Skins And Rhino Horns: Can A Trade Deal Halt The Trafficking?

If you want a sobering look at the scale of wildlife trafficking, just visit the National Eagle and Wildlife Repository on the outskirts of Denver. In the middle of a national reserve is a cavernous warehouse stuffed with the remains of 1.5 million animals, whole and in parts.

They range from taxidermied polar bears to tiny sea horses turned into key chains. An area devoted to elephants is framed by a pair of enormous tusks.

“You can see right there those are elephant feet,” says Coleen Schaefer, who heads the repository. “People either make those into trash cans or foot stools.”

In 2013, more than 20,000 elephants were slaughtered, and last year the repository crushed 6 tons of confiscated ivory.

Some poached wildlife is used for fashion or medicine. Schaefer says some of the animals serve as trophies.

“This is probably the saddest item we have,” she says. “This is a tiger fetus that was carved out of its mother and then stuffed and placed on a shelf.”

Looking around this enormous warehouse, you get a sense of how difficult it is to curb wildlife trafficking. Row after row, shelf after shelf, there are heads and the skins of cheetahs, leopards, jaguars, lions and tigers.

Naimah Aziz, an inspector with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, searches for illegally trafficked wildlife items passing through the cargo area at New York's JFK airport. Here she holds the horns of an argali, an endangered mountain sheep from Central Asia. Jackie Northam/NPR

Naimah Aziz, an inspector with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, searches for illegally trafficked wildlife items passing through the cargo area at New York’s JFK airport. Here she holds the horns of an argali, an endangered mountain sheep from Central Asia. Jackie Northam/NPR

The Obama administration is now trying to tackle wildlife trafficking by incorporating rules into the Trans-Pacific Partnership, known as the TPP. This is the massive multilateral trade agreement currently being negotiated among a dozen Asia-Pacific nations, including the United States.

Potential Trade Sanctions

Michael Froman, the U.S. trade representative, says if it passes, countries found to be involved in illegal wildlife trafficking could face trade sanctions.

“What we’re doing through the Trans-Pacific Partnership is first of all making sure environmental issues are central to the agreement, including things like wildlife trafficking, and then making them fully enforceable just like any other provision of the trade agreement,” he says.

The U.S. is also trying to make this part of a trade deal with the European Union.

But Leigh Henry, senior policy adviser for the World Wildlife Fund, says the Asia-Pacific trade deal is key because much of the demand for the endangered wildlife comes from Asian countries negotiating the TPP.

“Vietnam is huge. They are the primary consumer of rhino horn that’s driving this increase in rhino poaching in South Africa,” Henry says, adding that Malaysia is a huge transit route for the illegal wildlife trade…

Read the whole story here.

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