Marc and Craig Kielburger Aug 13 2017
While agents from U.S. Fish and Wildlife lured a smuggler to a storage facility in the Bronx with the promise of $400,000 US worth of illegal rhino horn as part of a sting operation, Sheldon Jordan readied his team to raid the man’s warehouse in B.C.
The smuggling ring’s Richmond headquarters was posing as an antique auction house, where police found piles of illegal ivory, rhino horn and coral. Animal parts were stored next to 50,000 tablets of ecstasy, bags of marijuana and cocaine.
Wildlife trafficking is a global phenomenon. Jordan, director general of Wildlife Enforcement at Environment Canada, says it is much closer to home. He is in charge of rooting it out across the country.
Jordan recovered a laptop during the sting that mapped out an illegal network of suppliers and buyers stretching across borders, proof of Canada’s connection to a global animal-trafficking market that is also tied to guns and drugs.
Black-market prices have skyrocketed to meet growing demand. The result is a surge in trafficking of everything from exotic timber to the scaly pangolin, the world’s most poached animal. Conservative estimates: $91 billion US annually.
“Animals and plants are just another low-risk, high-reward commodity for transnational organized crime” says Kelvin Alie, executive vice-president of the International Fund for Animal Welfare.
Canada has quietly become both a destination and a source country. Turtles, lizards and birds are smuggled here for collectors. Polar-bear hides and narwhal tusks, prized as trophies, and bear gall bladders and wild ginseng, valued for medicinal purposes, are illegally exported.
Beyond the destruction of ecosystems and the devastation of animal populations, it can spark violence and unrest, creating the conditions for poverty, hunger and drought, leading to human casualties, Jordan says.
Alie says governments should focus on criminals and corruption to dismantle the trading networks that breed violent crime.
Using microchips to track animals, enforcement officers follow the supply chain to ensure polar bears are hunted and purchased legally.
Jordan hopes to share this tactic and technology with other nations to help safeguard their animal populations.
Canadians should understand that wildlife trafficking is not confined to faraway jungles.
It is big business for major criminal networks and it is happening right here in Canada.
Craig and Marc Kielburger are the co-founders of the WE movement, which includes WE Charity, ME to WE Social Enterprise and WE Day.
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