Texas Game Wardens fight illegal wildlife trafficking
A call to action was put out by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in 2012 to raise awareness and engage conservationists on Wildlife Conservation Day, December 4.
During the “Wildlife Trafficking and Conservation: A Call to Action” event held at the State Department on November
“Wildlife cannot be manufactured, and once it’s gone, it cannot be replenished," she said. "Those who profit from it illegally are not just undermining our borders and our economies, they are truly stealing from the next generation.”
In Texas, there's a large wildlife black market that’s generating millions of dollars in illegal trade and having detrimental effects on our wildlife. Texas has become a hot spot in wildlife trafficking because of the state’s rich biodiversity, cultural diversity and international borders and ports.
Texas game wardens, charged with protecting Texas wildlife, have stepped up their efforts to combat the illegal wildlife trade. They’re trying to keep sought-after Texas species such as turtles, tortoises and alligator gar from leaving the state while also trying to prevent dangerous species such as piranhas and snakehead fish from entering. In addition, they’ve worked cases to shut down illegal trade involving protected species such as bald eagles, American alligators and hummingbirds.
“The illegal sale and exploitation of wildlife resources is a global problem that has a direct negative effect on the state of Texas and could lead to the loss of Texas native species, either through the harvest of native species or introduction of nonindigenous invasive species,” says Col. Grahame Jones, law enforcement director for the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department.
In 2013, TPWD game wardens joined with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, other states and three Asian countries to crack down on internet wildlife crimes, resulting in 61 state and federal cases in Texas. Items seized in Texas included a Russian Amur leopard pelt, a hawksbill sea turtle, Texas tortoises (a threatened species heavily exploited by the pet trade), invasive freshwater stingrays and numerous snakes.
Whether it’s trucks full of finned sharks or bald eagle talons being sold at the Canton flea market, Texas game wardens are working to protect the state’s wildlife from the growing global illegal wildlife trade.
“It’s a significant problem,” says John Padgett, a game warden in the Dallas area who focuses on nongame enforcement, including wildlife trafficking cases. “When you see several hundred hummingbirds come in one shipment, you know you’re just touching the tip of the iceberg. You catch a shipment of a couple hundred turtles here and 50 turtles there, and maybe they’re not depleting them, but they’re sure knocking their numbers down. The animals weren’t designed to be taken like that. It’s probably a lot more widespread than anybody thinks because we just catch the ones we catch. How many get away with it?”