The Eliminate, Neutralize, and Disrupt (END) Wildlife Trafficking Act (P.L. 114-231) (the “Act”) directs the Secretary of State, in consultation with the Secretary of the Interior and the Secretary of Commerce, to submit to Congress a report that lists focus countries and countries of concern, as defined in the Act.
Wildlife trafficking remains a serious transnational crime that threatens security, economic prosperity, the rule of law, long-standing conservation efforts, and human health. Wildlife trafficking is one of four areas highlighted in Executive Order 13773, signed by President Trump on February 9, 2017, calling for a comprehensive and decisive approach to dismantle organized crime syndicates.
The Task Force on Wildlife Trafficking (Task Force), co-chaired by the Secretary of State, the Secretary of the Interior, and the Attorney General, brings together 17 federal departments and agencies to implement the National Strategy for Combating Wildlife Trafficking (the “National Strategy”). In that implementation, the U.S. government is combating this illicit trade by targeting three strategic priorities: (1) strengthening enforcement; (2) reducing demand for illegally traded wildlife; and, (3) building international cooperation.
The Task Force’s work to combat wildlife trafficking is making a difference on the ground at home and worldwide. Task Force efforts and activities are better coordinated across the U.S. government; efficiencies are being identified and exploited, redundancies eliminated, and resources used more strategically; our international outreach continues to expand; and improved coordination with the intelligence community has spotlighted new areas of work. Working in partnership with the private sector, local communities, and non-governmental organizations, the United States has led the way globally, securing agreements and commitments from governments and stakeholders at all levels to take urgent action. Highlights of Task Force efforts are included in the separate Strategic Review, as called for in Sec. 301(d) of the END Wildlife Trafficking Act.
Much work remains, including securing greater involvement from the intelligence community, solidifying coordination of our efforts with those of other governments and donors, strengthening capacity of communities that live with and protect wildlife, and bringing more of those responsible for the illegal trade to justice. We also strive to improve the availability and veracity of information on wildlife trafficking, to close data gaps and enhance our understanding of the breadth of global trade routes. Measuring our success, or failure, is not easy but we continue to work to identify appropriate indictors and metrics. There is no single approach that will solve this daunting challenge: it requires – and will continue to require -steadfast dedication, innovative approaches, and extensive collaboration and cooperation at all levels of government and society.
Methodology for Determining Focus Countries
The Department of State worked closely with the other agencies of the Task Force to develop and employ a qualitative and quantitative process for identifying focus countries and countries of concern, as defined in Section 2 of the Act. Technical experts and scientists from Task Force agencies began this effort by establishing a process to analyze wildlife trafficking information and subsequently obtaining a set of relevant and available data. This analysis included evaluation of data drawn from public reporting by U.S. government agencies; international entities such as the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN), and the UN Office of Drugs and Crime (UNODC); and non-government organizations (NGOs) such as the Center for Advanced Defense Studies (C4ADS), TRAFFIC, the Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA), and Transparency International.
Based on the analysis of interagency experts, the input from outside experts, and the availability, quality, and consistency of data, the Task Force employed the following process to identify focus countries:
Range States: The Task Force used information from IUCN, CITES, the Endangered Species Act, and seizures reported to CITES to generate a list of wildlife species that are of high conservation concern and are known to be illegally traded based on seizure data as reported to CITES. Experts then used the IUCN Red List and other sources to determine the range states for biologically significant populations of these species.
Seizure Data: The Task Force compiled seizures of trafficked wildlife reported by the U.S. government since 2011, and added seizures that other countries reported to the CITES Secretariat. The seizures were analyzed in a manner that scored countries for being the source country for a seizure (and in some cases the transit or final destination if this information was known), but excluded from scoring the countries that successfully made the seizure.
The Task Force considered both seizures of illegal wildlife and wildlife products, as well as a secondary analysis of only those species identified in the range analysis, with countries being scored based on whichever analysis caused them to be ranked highest.
Recognizing that seizure data only capture a small but unknown percentage of all illegal wildlife trade and that much of that trade may not transit through a country with a strong customs enforcement system, the Task Force then considered additional data available for several key species.
Species Specific Data: The Task Force utilized the rankings listed in the 2016 CITES Elephant Trade Information System (ETIS) report of countries that plays a significant role as a supplier, transit, or consumer country. The Task Force also considered trade and market analyses conducted by NGOs for rhinos, reptiles, birds, and pangolins, as the most trafficked species.
Risk and Enabling Criteria: The Task Force further considered risk and enabling criteria, including Transparency International’s Perceptions of Corruption Index; countries that are currently subject to CITES trade suspensions; and a Department of State analysis of the global transportation network that sought to identify key nodes and chokepoints for illegal wildlife trade.
Country-Specific Analysis: The above data sets were scored in a weighted manner, which led to a list of countries where further country-specific analysis was needed. Factors such as range states, seizures, and species-specific criteria were weighted more heavily than additional risk and enabling factors.
Task Force agencies, including those at U.S. overseas missions, reviewed the initial analysis and provided additional information that was often only available locally. These country-specific analyses helped to round out the global data, including by providing information on additional species such as felines, primates, and marine species. Agencies also considered the trajectory of wildlife populations and trafficking’s impact on that trajectory, government and private sector efforts to prevent illegal trade, and the presence of legal or poorly regulated domestic markets for species threatened by wildlife trafficking.
The Task Force further evaluated whether governments have recently taken steps to improve legislation, regulations, and/or enforcement and other trends such that the country is stepping up its efforts to combat the illegal trade in wildlife.
2017 Focus Countries
Using the methodology described above, the Department of State, in consultation with the Departments of the Interior and Commerce as well as other agencies of the Task Force, determined the following countries should be listed as focus countries pursuant to Section 201(a) of the Act. In other words, each country listed is a “major source of wildlife trafficking products or their derivatives, a major transit point of wildlife trafficking products or their derivatives, or a major consumer of wildlife trafficking products.”
This determination is based on our analysis of the statutory criteria and does not reflect a positive or negative judgment of the listed countries or indicate that these countries are not working diligently to combat wildlife trafficking. Indeed, the United States has longstanding and deep partnerships with many of these countries with respect to combating wildlife trafficking and recognizes the strong political will that already exists in many of these countries to tackle this problem. The Department of State and other Task Force agencies look forward to continuing close and constructive relationships with these countries as we work collaboratively to combat wildlife trafficking.
2017 Focus Country List (in alphabetical order)
Democratic Republic of the Congo
Republic of the Congo
United Arab Emirates
Countries of Concern
Methodology for Identifying Countries of Concern
To identify countries of concern as directed by Section 20 I (b) of the Act, the Department of State, in consultation with the Departments of the Interior and Commerce and other agencies of the Task Force, reviewed publicly available information as well as classified material that indicated the following governments actively engaged in or knowingly profited from the trafficking of endangered or threatened species. This designation does not indicate all parts of the government are or have been involved, but rather that there are serious concerns that either high-level or systemic government involvement in wildlife trafficking has occurred.
2017 Countries of Concern (in alphabetical order)
Democratic Republic of Congo