Illegal wildlife trade generates more than USD $10 billion annually, third behind only the illegal drug and arms trades. While many people knowingly contribute to such trade, unsuspecting customers can easily buy items like ivory trinkets and turtle shell products in stores or online, thereby becoming unintentional participants. Sometimes, wildlife and wildlife products are sold legally at tourist destinations, but bringing these items home may be unlawful or require special permits.
The trade in wildlife parts and products includes items made with exotic leathers and fur, ornamental objects, food items, and traditional medicines. In addition, live animals are traded as pets, for biomedical research and testing, for game farms and hunting ranches, and for captive display in zoos, aquariums and circuses.
As a compassionate consumer, it is important to look out for the consumptive use of wildlife when traveling, shopping and dining. Avoid patronizing any establishment that is involved in such use. Always assume that wildlife products for sale are illegal and inhumane. Laws protecting animals from trade are often confusing, weak, and poorly enforced. If you see information in newspapers or magazines that supports wildlife use, send a letter to the editor. If you witness abuse or illegal activity involving wild animals, report it to law enforcement. And help educate others on how to avoid supporting the wildlife trade, too.
The number one way you can protect animals is by harnessing the power of your pocketbook. When you support animal-friendly services and avoid those that exploit animals, you use economics to your advantage. As a compassionate traveler, you’ll want to keep your travel funds from harming animals. This includes wildlife volunteer opportunities as well.
Check out our Don’t Buy Wild guide for more information
Working with communities
HSI works to create economic incentives for communities to conserve local wildlife through ecotourism and sustainable income-generating activities instead of poaching and illegal wildlife trade. These programs create a strong link between protection of natural resources and increased community income, motivating residents to take a more proactive role in the protection of local species and their habitat.
Reaching the public
In order to prevent unwitting collusion in the illegal wildlife trade, information must be readily available as to what constitutes “legal” and “illegal” trade, and what can be done to protect wildlife. To that end, HSI works with local partners to create advertisements and other materials in order to get the message across: Don’t Buy Wild!
Inevitably, many wildlife products and wildlife-related activities are marketed to tourists all over the world. Many are harmful to wildlife and may even be illegal. Check out our Don’t Buy Wild guide. Sign our Don’t Buy Wild pledge and share it with your friends and family! Join the HSI online community to receive action alerts on current issues, including the exploitation of wild animals for profit.