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East Asia Law Review convenes experts on wildlife crime

February 15, 2016

Four experts on international wildlife crime discussed the issue at the East Asia Law Review symposium at Penn Law.

By Maria Biery C’18

On February 12, the East Asia Law Review held a symposium on international wildlife crime. The four panelists included Robert Dreher, Associate Director of Fish and Wildlife Services; John Cruden, the Assistant Attorney General for the Environment and Natural Resources Division of the Department of Justice; Charles Di Leva, Chief Counsel of the Environmental and International Law Practice Group at the World Bank; and Dr. Kunio Mikuriya, Secretary General of the World Customs Organization.

The speakers explained the problems and issues surrounding illegal wildlife trafficking, the measures they are taking to address the issue, and the necessary steps the United States and the world must take in the future to combat poaching.

“It’s not just a conservation crisis,” said Dreher, “it’s also an international crisis in law and order. It threatens the security of nations with rampant bribery of public officials, and, frankly, killing of rangers and law enforcement officials who get in the way.”

In conjunction to the corruption and killing of law enforcement, Dreher also mentioned the impact of poaching on native species such as rhinoceros.

“There are only about 20,000 rhinos in the world,” he noted. “We are losing 1,000 to 1,200 rhinos a year. They are going to drive the rhino population to extinction.”

Following Dreher, Cruden focused on the law enforcement side of illegal wildlife poaching. He stressed the importance of the Lacey Act, which bans the trafficking of illegal wildlife and plant products.

“The National Geographic magazine, when they were talking about what happened in the last 12 months — what were the most significant acts in illegal trafficking — I picked the Lacey Act because a signal was sent throughout the world that we’re very serious about this type of action,” he said.

Di Leva then went into some of the ways the United States can combat wildlife trafficking.

First, however, he mentioned that the World Bank “identified $70 billion a year worth of damage in developing countries because of wildlife crime.”

Using this figure, Di Leva stressed the importance of addressing wildlife crime when he described the best way to stop poaching was to “provide incentives, such as through ecotourism, so as to not breed this notion that, for the poor, the best way to survive is to harvest this valuable resource.”

Dr. Mikuriya ended the symposium by talking about the gaps that exist in customs procedures and the lack of collaboration at borders that allow for this trade to continue.

He believes that the best way to deal with the problem is to “raise more awareness,” get the “cooperation of businesses,” and “train customs officers and build capacity.”

He ended his section, and the symposium, saying: “We have to do more because there is more to do in combating international wildlife crime.”

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