LOS ANGELES, California: To ensure that trafficked wildlife can survive and thrive, last week, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) and the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) jointly launched a pilot Wildlife Confiscations Network in Southern California.
The two entities aim to implement the program across the U.S., especially to other trafficking hot spots, such as Miami and El Paso, Texas.
Southern California is an epicenter for trafficked wildlife, including monkeys, tigers, exotic birds for the pet trade, and trophies, reptiles, and sea cucumbers for food and medicinal purposes, with most coming from Asian countries.
"It is based in human need and greed and these animals are being trafficked all around the world and basically for profit," Dan Ashe, president and CEO of the AZA and a former director of the FWS, said, adding it was "very much an American problem."
Criminal networks and syndicates have built illegal wildlife trade into a multi-billion dollar a year criminal enterprise, he added, noting that between 2015 and 2019, the FWS had to care for and find homes for nearly 50,000 trafficked animals.
Jake Owens, director of conservation at the Los Angeles Zoo, said, "The hope is that we can get that animal to a high enough health and start breeding and getting into a really nice healthy population in zoos and aquariums."
Rescued animals must also be tested to ensure they do not spread diseases to other animals or humans.