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

Atlanta-based Home Depot sees $300M tariff hit, but it’s manageable
Atlanta-based Home Depot sees $300M tariff hit, but it’s manageable

Home Depot, the state’s largest company, expects the current round of tariffs to add nearly $300 million to the cost of what it sells, but views the amount as “manageable.” In an interview after the Atlanta-based company announced a surprisingly robust set of results for the most recent quarter, Chief Financial Officer Carol Tome...
Party scene around Braves’ SunTrust Park stadium missing one piece
Party scene around Braves’ SunTrust Park stadium missing one piece

Even on nights when the Atlanta Braves aren’t swinging, some bars and restaurants just outside SunTrust Park are hitting home runs. Enough so, in fact, that 23-year-old Jimmy Hutchinson moved into an apartment inside the The Battery Atlanta mixed-use development adjacent to the ballpark in Cobb County to enjoy the scene. “We thought it...
Southwest restricts emotional support animals, service animals
Southwest restricts emotional support animals, service animals

Southwest Airlines has announced new restrictions on emotional support animals and service animals, following similar moves by Delta Air Lines and other carriers. Dallas-based Southwest, the second-largest airline in Atlanta, announced that starting Sept. 17 it will limit emotional support animals to one dog or cat per customer.  No other types...
Coca-Cola acquires part ownership of BodyArmor sports drink
Coca-Cola acquires part ownership of BodyArmor sports drink

Coca-Cola has acquired minority ownership of BodyArmor, a sports drink company. The agreement will grant BodyArmor access to Coca-Cola’s bottling and distribution system, a move Duane Stanford, the executive editor of Beverage Digest, a publication on the non-alcoholic beverage industry observes will further accelerate the brand’s...
Delta hiring 1,000 flight attendants
Delta hiring 1,000 flight attendants

Delta Air Lines said it plans to hire more than 1,000 flight attendants for 2019. Last year, the airline had about 1,700 flight attendant openings and said it got more than 270,000 applicants. In order to qualify for the job of flight attendant at Delta, applicants must be able to work a flexible schedule, have a high school degree or...
More Stories