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FoA to weigh in on wildlife trafficking at symposium
By Nicole Rivard
This year The Quinnipiac Law Review’s annual symposium will examine U.S. and international efforts to address illegal wildlife trafficking. With a focus on ivory, symposium participants will examine the legal and policy issues critical to the debate, and Friends of Animals will be front and center.
Michael Harris, director of FoA’s Wildlife Law Program, will be among the featured speakers at the event, which is slated for Nov. 8 from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. at Quinnipiac University’s School of Law. Harris, who for nearly two decades has worked as an environmental attorney, much of the time working directly on litigation to protect wildlife and natural ecosystems, will discuss international wildlife trafficking and the Endangered Species Act. Before his position at Friends of Animals, Harris was an associate professor at the University of Denver, where he directed the school’s Environmental Law Clinic.
“Wildlife trafficking is the third most lucrative criminal trade in the world, after drugs and human trafficking, and in front of arms smuggling,” Harris said.
For decades, international efforts to combat these crimes have largely focused on legal mechanisms to stem the supply of wildlife from exporting counties to importing counties. But the result “has not been good,” adds Harris, “as many highly trafficked species are on the verge of extinction in their home ranges.
“We need to shift the burden of protecting the world’s fauna back onto developed countries, like the United States, that are the largest offenders when it comes to both legal and illegal importation of exotic species.”
The seed for the topic of the symposium was planted In February of 2014, when 46 countries, including the United States, convened for The London Conference on Illegal Wildlife Trade. The meeting resulted in the issuance of a declaration recognizing “the economic, social and environmental consequences of illegal trade in wildlife” and emphasizing in particular the threat to “the survival of elephants in the wild.” In response, the participating nations resolved to strengthen law enforcement, increase international cooperation, endorse the action of governments which have destroyed “seized wildlife products being traded illegally,” and to raise awareness of the problem.
Contemporaneously with the London Conference, the Obama Administration issued a “National Strategy for Combating Wildlife Trafficking.” The administration employed ominous language in announcing its environmental call to arms: “In the past decade, wildlife trafficking-the poaching or other taking of protected or managed species and the illegal trade in wildlife and their related parts and products has escalated into an international crisis. Wildlife trafficking is both a critical conservation concern and a threat to global security with significant effects on the national interests of the United States and the interests of our partners around the world.”
Echoing the London group, the administration announced an intention to address the crisis with a three-pronged strategy of strengthening enforcement, reducing demand and building international cooperation. The strategy is focused on trade in elephant ivory and rhinoceros horn and assures that “nearly all commercial trade” in those substances “will be prohibited.”
The keynote speaker will be Joe Roman, who will address the origins and evolution of the Endangered Species Act and its connections to international trade and human well-being. Roman is a conservation biologist and researcher at the Gund Institute for Ecological Economics at the University of Vermont and a Hrdy Visiting Fellow at Harvard University. His research, focusing on endangered species conservation and marine ecology, has appeared in Science, Proceedings of the National Academy of Science, Trends in Ecology and Evolution, and many other journals. Roman is the author of Whale and Listed: Dispatches from America’s Endangered Species Act, winner of the Rachel Carson Environment Book Award in 2012.