WCS Trains U.S. Military About Illegal Wildlife Issues

NEW YORK (June 26, 2008) – The Wildlife Conservation Society helped train thousands of U.S. military about the trade in illegal wildlife last week in Fort Drum, New York. The training was part of the 13th Annual Safety Day, put on by the Fort Drum Command Safety Office to promote safety awareness and provide information on wellness and health.

WCS held an exhibit at the event displaying examples of illegal wildlife products from endangered species confiscated by the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation at the Port of New York.  The display provided additional information about illegal wildlife trade, and how soldiers can help WCS efforts to conserve endangered species in countries where they are stationed. WCS staff also surveyed soldiers who have been stationed or deployed overseas about their use and observation of wildlife products.  The data will be used to inform a broader WCS educational effort with the military about wildlife trade products.               

The training was necessary because military personnel can unknowingly contribute to the illegal wildlife trade by purchasing wildlife products in local markets such as skins and pelts from endangered species.

“We are extremely grateful to have the enthusiastic cooperation of the U.S. military in helping curb the illegal trade in wildlife that is threatening so many species,” said Dr. Heidi Kretser, a scientist in WCS’s Adirondack Program and organizer of the training session.  “Because of their world travels, soldiers can make a real difference in helping to stem this troubling trade in increasingly rare wildlife.”

“I thank the Wildlife Conservation Society for traveling to Fort Drum to provide this training to our soldiers.  This is a good example of private organizations dedicating their time and resources to help our Armed Forces as they prepare to deploy overseas,” said Congressman John M. McHugh (R-NY23), who represents the Fort Drum region and is currently one of the most senior Republicans on the House Armed Services Committee.  “Given that the 10th Mountain Division is one of the most frequently deployed units in the Army, providing this knowledge to our soldiers who serve on the frontlines has real world, everyday applications that could assist our service members and help to curtail the illegal wildlife trade.”

Earlier this year, representatives from WCS-Afghanistan held a successful workshop to educate soldiers at Bagram Air Base outside of Kabul, after it was discovered that traders had sold illegal wildlife products to soldiers.

A multi-billion dollar industry, illegal wildlife trade is second only to the illegal trade in drugs and firearms globally.  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.  The Wildlife Conservation Society works around the world to fight illegal wildlife trade by educating potential consumers and working with local partners to strengthen laws and enforcement.



The Wildlife Conservation Society saves wildlife and wild places worldwide.  We do so through science, global conservation, education and the management of the world's largest system of urban wildlife parks, led by the flagship Bronx Zoo.  Together these activities change attitudes towards nature and help people imagine wildlife and humans living in harmony.  WCS is committed to this mission because it is essential to the integrity of life on Earth. Visit: www.wcs.org



Contacts

Stephen Sautner (718-220-3682; ssautner@wcs.org)
John Delaney (718-220-3275; jdelaney@wcs.org)

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