Wildlife trafficking ‘‘in a terrible way has become a trade and a business of enormous proportions — a billion-dollar trade in wildlife species that is analogous to that of the trade in drugs and arms,’’ Steiner said. ‘‘This is not a small matter. It is driven by a conglomerate of crime syndicates across borders.’’
Prior to the establishment of CITES in 1973, there was no international regulation of the cross-border wildlife trade. CITES officials say their aim is not to outlaw the buying and selling of flora and fauna, but to ensure it remains sustainable as the world’s population explodes.
CITES Director-General John Scanlon said the slaughter of African elephants and rhinos was among the group’s greatest concerns. He said poachers, rebel militias and mafia-like crime syndicates that smuggle animal parts across borders could wipe out the species.
‘‘This criminal activity poses a serious threat to the stability and economies of these countries. It also robs these countries of their natural heritage,’’ Scanlon said. ‘‘These criminals must be stopped, and we need to prepare to deploy the sorts of techniques that are used to combat the trade in narcotics to do so.’’
‘‘We know the way. We now need the collective will,’’ Scanlon said. ‘‘Right here, right now in Bangkok is when we must come together to turn the tables on serious wildlife crime.’’