Wildlife Trade and the Military

Wildlife Trade and Military Photo
Julie Larsen Maher ©WCS

Military personnel and affiliates posted overseas have significant buying power that influences local markets in the communities and regions where they are based. These influences include the ability to drive the demand for wildlife products—including those derived from endangered species. Soldiers who shop for such souvenirs in local markets can unknowingly contribute to the problem. WCS is working with the U.S. military to develop and implement an outreach program to discourage the purchase of illegal wildlife products by personnel ready to be deployed or already stationed overseas.


Illegal wildlife trade is a multi-billion dollar, global industry second only to the illegal trade in drugs and firearms. It has driven many species to the brink of extinction, from tigers in Southeast Asia, whose bones are sold for traditional medicine, to beluga sturgeon in the Caspian Sea, whose eggs are sold for black market caviar.


  • Educate U.S. military personnel about the risks to endangered species—and themselves—when purchasing illegal wildlife products.
  • Survey servicemen and women about their use and observation of wildlife products while stationed abroad, to aid in efforts to curtail the illegal trade.
  • Reduce demand, and therefore incentives, for local vendors of wildlife souvenirs to continue to hunt threatened species.
  • Prevent U.S. military personnel from transporting any illegal wildlife products across international borders, or reselling such items, which could result in confiscation, fines, and potential imprisonment.

What WCS is Doing

WCS works around the world to fight illegal wildlife trade by educating potential consumers and joining with local partners to strengthen laws and enforcement. Currently, we are partnering with the Department of Defense to inform military personnel of the potential risks to wildlife and to themselves when purchasing wildlife trade items. As part of this effort, WCS staff have participated in Annual Safety Day at the Fort Drum U.S. military base in upstate New York. During the event, WCS staff teach soldiers about the trade and exhibit illegal pelts and other confiscated wildlife products, as examples of items to avoid while abroad.

From the Newsroom

Caught in the CrosshairsDecember 23, 2011

A new video narrated by Edward Norton aims to combat the illegal wildlife trade in Iraq and Afghanistan by informing U.S. military personnel about the consequences of buying wildlife products while stationed overseas.

Shopping 101 for SoldiersJuly 2, 2008

During Annual Safety Day at Fort Drum, WCS teaches soldiers about illegal wildlife trade products to help protect endangered species in countries where they are stationed.

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