The black market trade in wildlife: February 15

by Cheryl Morris-Putman for MVFN

On Thursday February 15, 2018 at 7:30 pm. the Mississippi Valley Field Naturalists (MVFN) will host the fourth presentation of the season, which will reflect the theme “When Things Go Bump In The Night”. The event will take place in the Social Hall of Almonte United Church, 106 Elgin St., Almonte Ontario.

Sheldon Jordan

Our February speaker is Mr. Sheldon Jordan, Director General of the Wildlife Enforcement Branch at Environment and Climate Change Canada. He is also the past chair of Interpol’s Wildlife Crime Working Group. Mr. Jordan is responsible for the enforcement of Canadian federal laws regarding species at risk, international and interprovincial trade, migratory birds and their habitats, as well as ensuring compliance with laws in 147 protected areas in all provinces and territories. He has entitled his presentation “Rhinos, Tigers, Bears and…Ginseng—Wildlife Crime Comes To Canada.”

INTERPOL and the United Nations estimate that environmental crime is the fourth most lucrative criminal enterprise globally, worth over $100 billion US per year, a figure which is increasing at a rate of 5% to 7% annually, double the pace of world economic growth.

“Increased demand for wildlife products is driven largely by greed and a more disposable income in Asia and other parts of the world that have food, medicinal and spiritual traditions around these items”, stated Mr. Jordan in a Canadian Geographic article written by Leslie Anthony and entitled “The Illegal Wildlife Trade Is A Biodiversity Apocalypse” (September/October 2017).

The cover photo accompanying the article shows a stool created from an elephant foot and a carving made from elephant ivory, both illegal wildlife products, which are on display in an evidence room of Environment Canada’s wildlife enforcement directorate. Such items are kept for training purposes. Similar exhibit rooms maintained by the federal government are often crammed from floor to ceiling with products made from plant or animal species (including pharmacopoeia), which have been seized within Canadian borders because they are part of the flow of illegal wildlife trade.

Wildlife trade” is defined as the sale or exchange of any wild animal or plant (including trees).  Such exhibits may include rhinoceros horns (worth over $300,000 each on the black market), bookends made from zebra hooves, a briefcase lined with cheetah fur, a leopard-skin coat, the skin of an African rock python, elephant ivory, or crocodile jerky from Thailand, to name just a few.

Canada supports a substantial and legal wildlife trade such as forestry, commercial and recreational fisheries, the harvesting of wild plants, and controlled hunting, all of which aid communities when undertaken with sustained measures in place. However, the continued unsustainable and illegal export and import of wildlife resources within Canada and abroad threatens to overwhelm efforts at stewardship and this in turn will affect communities and economies worldwide.

“Like it or not, we’re all dependent on the Earth for our survival” states Mr. Jordan. Canada is not just a market and transit stop on the way to the larger US market, but experiences its share of wildlife crime. For example, within Ontario and Quebec, wild American ginseng is being illegally harvested for export. Walrus in the Canadian Arctic may be at risk because the tusks are an alternative source of ivory with elephant populations becoming diminished. The export trophy trade in vulnerable species has challenged Canadian wildlife enforcement officials as well.

I have barely touched on the scope of environmental crime that exists worldwide and within Canadian borders. Sheldon will lead a discussion using seized plants and animals to tell the story of how wildlife poaching and trafficking threaten the conservation of species, ecosystems as well as sustainable communities and economies here in Eastern Ontario, in Canada, and around the world.

Please join us for a thought-provoking, informative evening. Doors will open at 7 pm. Refreshments will be available throughout the evening. A discussion will follow the presentation. There is a non-member fee of $5 and no charge for youth under 18. For further information, please contact MVFN’s Program Chair, Gretta Bradley at glbradley@icloud.com.