It is the job of the U.S. Department of Fish and Wildlife to stop smugglers from illegally transporting animals across international borders. However, the budget-cutting sequester has eliminated hiring initiatives and training programs for border inspectors in the department. We must demand adequate funding from the federal government to train agents and protect our endangered species.
Top law enforcement officer Edward Grace says he’s seen women smuggling monkeys under the guise of pregnancy, men with burlap sacks full of pythons shoved down their pants, and children with pockets full of endangered sea turtles. “Every hour, every day, there’s a wildlife product being smuggled into the United States,” Grace said in a Washington Post interview.
Budget cuts have forced the U.S. Department of Fish and Wildlife to cancel training for twenty-four new border protection agents, and 14 vacancies for wildlife inspectors at major ports of entry will not be filled. Despite the growing number of endangered and threatened species, the Department has not been allowed to expand since 1978. Since that time, animal poaching has become much more prevalent and the list of protected species has grown exponentially.
Unfortunately, the United States is a popular stop on the illegal trade market. Smugglers often get by with false labeling and secret luggage compartments. “We can’t quantify how much is getting by us,” Officer Grace said. “But do we know stuff is getting by us? Yes. The hiring freeze will result in fewer investigations, making it easier for wildlife-smuggling rings to operate in the U.S.”
Sign my petition to urge the President Obama and Congress to provide adequate federal funding to stop wildlife smugglers from illegally transporting endangered species.