Wildlife trafficking campaign launches at Hartsfield-Jackson


With wildlife trafficking growing into one of the world’s largest illegal trades, the federal government is partnering with a nonprofit and Hollywood celebrities to increase awareness among consumers who might unwittingly bring prohibited items into the United States.

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, nonprofit WildAid and actor Michael Cudlitz of The Walking Dead this week announced a national campaign against wildlife trafficking, which they say is an industry worth $10 billion to $20 billion annually.

“I want to live in a world where there’s still elephants and rhinoceroses,” Cudlitz said, calling ivory poaching “brutal.”

The wildlife service inspected more than 180,000 wildlife-related shipments into the United States in 2015, according to officials at a news conference at Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport. The world’s busiest airport is one of the largest ports for wildlife products and hunting and fishing trophies, said Luis Santiago, special agent-in-charge in the law enforcement office for the agency’s Southeast region.

But, Santiago said, “We cannot simply arrest our way out of this.”

“It’s equally vital to tackle the consumer demand” by persuading consumers not to purchase wildlife products that may be illegal, he said. “If demand exists, someone will try to supply it.”

Among the many items to avoid buying and bringing back to the United States are ivory jewelry, carvings or figurines; tortoiseshell jewelry or curios; sea turtle shells or leather items; tiger, jaguar and leopard fur.

The trade “is often run by dangerous criminal syndicates,” said the airport’s general manager, Roosevelt Council.

Wildlife trafficking is seen as lucrative and lower risk than other illicit trades such as drugs, arms and human trafficking, according to Santiago. He said the growing scale of wildlife trafficking has had a “devastating effect” on wildlife.

One focus of the campaign is the elephant ivory trade, which organizers say has caused the savanna elephant population to drop by nearly one-third between 2007 and 2014 in 15 nations. Rhinos, tigers, lions and sea turtle populations are also in decline due to poaching, they say.

Cudlitz is one of WildAid’s “celebrity ambassadors.” They also include his Walking Dead co-star Danai Gurira and other actors. The nonprofit uses billboards and public service announcements in its campaigns.


Reader Comments ...


Next Up in Business

Like your workplace, tell us about it

You say you work for a great company with an encouraging and inclusive atmosphere. You say you have good benefits. You say your bosses are fair, sympathetic, understanding. Then why not share the good news? And, there’s still time to do it because the nomination deadline has been extended to Nov. 17. In March, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution...
Coke rejects charges of deceit in Diet Coke’s name
Coke rejects charges of deceit in Diet Coke’s name

A lawsuit has been filed against Coca-Cola charging the company with falsely advertising Diet Coke — allegations that the company vehemently rejects. The plaintiffs say that, instead of aiding in weight loss, the drink actually promotes weight gain and – worse – triggers other health problems, according to a report in Top Class Actions...
Wes Moss: Why bitcoin is a big deal, and why you should be careful
Wes Moss: Why bitcoin is a big deal, and why you should be careful

Bitcoin. It’s everywhere. Thanks to its skyrocketing value, it’s been a regular topic on the front page of every financial website. One bitcoin is currently worth $5,500, up from $1,000 in December. I hear what you’re thinking. Wow. So, what’s bitcoin? And am I missing out on something? Bitcoin, simply put, is a currency, similar...
Athenahealth cutting jobs, but outlook in Atlanta unclear
Athenahealth cutting jobs, but outlook in Atlanta unclear

Athenahealth, the Massachusetts-based electronic medical records company with a substantial operation in metro Atlanta, said Thursday it plans to cut its workforce by 9 percent as part of a cost cutting plan. It’s unclear how many jobs in Atlanta might be affected, but before Thursday, Athenahealth had been in growth mode in the Atlanta area...
Video: Georgia brings its bid for Amazon HQ2 to Seattle
Video: Georgia brings its bid for Amazon HQ2 to Seattle

A top Georgia recruiter on Thursday walked into Amazon’s Day One tower in downtown Seattle to hand-deliver the state’s pitch for the e-commerce giant’s second headquarters. And she had a camera crew in tow. Brittany Holtzclaw, director of logistics, energy, agribusiness and food processing for the state’s economic development...
More Stories