International Illegal Trade in Wildlife: Threats and U.S. Policy [Updated August 22, 2008] [open pdf - 736KB]
This CRS report analyzes the current illegal wildlife trade, with both its environmental and security implications discussed. The report uses the African ivory trade as a sample case study. From the text: "Global trade in illegal wildlife is a growing illicit economy, estimated to be worth at least $5 billion and potentially in excess of $20 billion annually. Some of the most lucrative illicit wildlife commodities include tiger parts, caviar, elephant ivory, rhino horn, and exotic birds and reptiles. Demand for illegally obtained wildlife is ubiquitous, and some suspect that illicit demand may be growing. International wildlife smuggling may be of interest to Congress as it presents several potential environmental and national security threats to the United States. Threats to the environment include the potential loss of biodiversity, introduction of invasive species into U.S. ecosystems, and transmission of disease through illegal wildlife trade, including through illegal bushmeat trade. National security threats include links between wildlife trafficking and organized crime and drug trafficking. Some terrorist groups may also be seeking to finance their activities through illegal wildlife trade, according to experts. Wildlife source and transit countries may be especially prone to exploitation if known to have weak state capacity, poor law enforcement, corrupt governments, and porous borders. The U.S. government addresses illegal wildlife trade through several national and international venues. Congress has passed numerous laws that regulate and restrict certain types of wildlife imports and exports, including the Endangered Species Act of 1973, the Lacey Act and Lacey Act Amendments of 1981, and several species-specific conservation laws."
CRS Report for Congress, RL34395