What’s scarier than the goriest slasher film? How about a stuffed tiger fetus? Or what about 45,000 dead seahorses — dried, wrapped in plastic and sitting in a cavernous warehouse full of seized illegal wildlife products?
Frighteningly enough, both – and even worse - can be found at the National Wildlife Property Repository just outside of Denver.
Coleen Schaefer, Supervisory Wildlife Repository Specialist runs the repository for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, providing tours to bring the grim reality of the thousands of animal products trafficked in the U.S. annually. The 22,000-square-foot facility is filled to the rafters with tiger skins, ivory tusks and trinkets, traditional Chinese medicines made from rhino horn and various parts from endangered species.
TAIPEI (October 28, 2016) — Raids led by officials from the Taipei District Public Prosecutors Office have uncovered caches of illegal wildlife products throughout Taiwan, including rhino horn and bear bile.
According to government officials, a total of 21 packages of powdered rhino horn, 50 packages of bear bile powder, 124 packages of musk, and 18 pieces of suspected rhino, bull and antelope horns were seized from multiple locations.
Officials also confirmed that they are interrogating 12 individuals regarding the illegal wildlife products including the Honorary Chairman of the Taipei Traditional Chinese Medicine Association, Lien Chun-ying.
According to the prosecutor’s office, Lien used his trading company as a cover to smuggle wildlife products into Taiwan from mainland China. He is alleged to have run a secret supply chain via social media to sell products such as rhino horn to his customers, claiming to offer “life saving medicines.”
Patients and their families paid high prices for these products, and after discovering that they did not possess the promised medicinal effects, alerted officials to Lien’s operation. Lien and his associates are alleged to have made about $3.2 million over the past three years of smuggling and selling the illegal wildlife products.
A sea turtle spots a plastic bag floating among the waves. To him, it looks like a jellyfish, its general shape and consistency swaying and catching the light in just the right way. He swims toward it and ingests the bag in one gulp, satisfying his hunger, and then goes on his away. In actuality, that plastic bag lines his gut, causing digestive blockages and the sea turtle’s eventual death from starvation.
This story is all too common in the marine environment. In fact, a study estimated that more than half the world’s sea turtles and a staggering 90% of sea birds had ingested some form of plastic. Earlier this year, 13 sperm whales washed up in Germany and their necropsies revealed stomachs full of plastic waste including a 43-foot-long shrimp fishing net, a plastic car engine cover and a plastic bucket. Plastic and other debris, including discarded fishing lines and nets (also called “ghost nets”), are not just ingested, but also account for thousands of casualties. Sharks, whales and mantas that get tangled up in nets either suffer life-threatening injuries from their attempts to escape or they simply remain trapped eventually drowning to death.
Four out of five Americans consider themselves to be wildlife lovers — hardly surprising, given how many millions of views the average cute animal video racks up. Yet only a small percentage of the public — less than 20 percent — knows anything about the illegal wildlife trade flourishing in the United States, according to a recent public opinion poll commissioned by WildAid.
Earlier this month, the 17th Conference of the Parties to CITES (the UN Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora) took place in Johannesburg, South Africa. CITES aims to reduce wildlife trafficking and to ensure that legal trade in wildlife products does not threaten the survival of plant and animal species.