Trafficking in wildlife, plants and other natural resources is a major global conservation issue. Poaching and illegal trade are seen as a threat for endangering those species, and also for invasive risk, disease spread, damage to ecotourism sectors, and revenue to criminal and terrorist operations.
Trafficking is certainly a big concern in Texas. From 1999 through 2016, the US. Fish and Wildlife Service stopped over 18,000 attempts to bring contraband plants and wildlife into Texas ports of entry. The interdictions happened under the authority of the Migratory Bird Treaty Act (protecting more than 1000 wild birds native to the US), Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act, Endangered Species Act, Marine Mammal Protection Act (banning sales of whale, walrus, polar bear, etc.), and the Convention of International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (controlling trade in thousands of listed animals, plants and products listed under CITES).
Looking through the data, we get a rough idea of the illegal trade. The major Texas entry points (in order of the number of interceptions) include El Paso, Houston, Dallas-Fort Worth, Laredo, Brownsville, McAllen, Del Rio and Tornillo. Mexico is by far the largest non-U.S. source of the contraband, followed by Vietnam, South Africa, Peru, China, Indonesia, Nigeria, El Salvador, Tanzania, Zimbabwe, and over 120 other nations.
The tally of seized shipments reads like a list of the animals aboard Noah’s ark. There are catches ranging from bats to baboons, hummingbirds to hippopotami, warblers to whales. Altogether, a total of over 490 types of plants and animals has been seized. The most common creatures (or their remains and products) include crocodiles, sea turtles, deer, rattlesnakes, ostriches, caimans, mollusks, corals and elephants. Medicines, eggs, trophy animals, feathers, caviar, jewelry, coral, meat and leather products were among the bigger (over 500 items per shipment), commercial-scale, kinds of uses represented.
Perry, Kenneth. 2016. Management Analyst, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Office of Law Enforcement. Personal communication, December 14, 2016.