Combating Wildlife Trafficking and Related Converging Threats: To Connect Dots We Must Collect Them

David M. Luna
Senior Director for National Security and Diplomacy Anti-Crime Programs, Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs
Presidential Task Force on Wildlife Trafficking Symposium, National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency
Springfield, VA
June 28, 2016

Good afternoon everyone and I hope that you all have enjoyed your lunch and had an opportunity to converge and network with each other toward building greater partnerships to disrupt and dismantle today’s illicit networks involved in wildlife trafficking.

As the Moderator for Session 2, entitled “Convergence and Networks: Wildlife Crime and Related Transnational Crimes” I am very honored to have a great lineup of distinguished experts and strategic thinkers to present on the illicit pathways concerning today’s criminal networks involved in the trafficking of endangered wildlife and how they are closely linked to other converging threats, criminal violence, and in some cases, the financing of terrorism.

Earlier this morning, we heard from ODNI Director James Clapper, NGA Director Robert Cardillo, INL Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Dan Foote, and our other keynote speakers on the urgency and security dimensions related to wildlife trafficking and how many of our iconic species such as elephants, rhinos, tigers, pangolins, and many other species are at the gates of extinctions.

The reality of course, is that well-armed, well-equipped, and well-organized networks of criminals and corrupt officials are exploiting porous borders and weak institutions to profit from trading in illegal wildlife. The increasing convergence of networks involved in illicit activities represent a growing, multi-layered, asymmetric threat to our national security interests and is fueling greater insecurity and instability worldwide.

Across source, transit or demand markets, today's global threat environment is one of convergence, a multi-dimensional matrix connecting an incredible array of illicit actors, networks, black market facilitators, and complicit financial hubs at critical nodes measured in space and time. In many instances, the same networks are involved in trafficking different illicit commodities.

The pipelines linking these threat actors and networks slice through borders and undercut the interests and security of our partners across the international community. When wildlife trafficking converges with other illicit trafficking crimes such as drugs, arms, humans, illegally-mined natural resources, or other illicit commodities, each no doubt is individually dangerous but whose sum represents a far greater threat.

Our panel will further build on some of the key themes highlighted this morning, and continue to sharpen our dialogue and our understanding of the current illicit environment to help us, for example, better identify the “hotspots”, leverage choke points, target the full continuum of illicit threats, disrupt the enabling infrastructure that support illicit trafficking networks across the global supply chain, and to expose the webs of corruption and criminality.

By looking through a prism of convergence, we can optimally exploit the interconnections of threats to aid law enforcement agencies so that they can undertake more robust criminal investigations and prosecutions against [wildlife] traffickers, and for the international community to develop more effective criminal justice capacities, capabilities, and intelligence-based responses to counter illicit trafficking.

Finally, in fighting networks with networks and through collective action, we too can better collect the dots across communities linking points of convergence, visualizing interlocking nodes to pinpoint and dismantle criminalized markets, attack corruption, follow illicit money trails, and target the operational centers of gravity of these criminal entrepreneurs to put them behind bars and their facilitators out of business.

Without further ado, our roster of distinguished panelists will not only illuminate the dark corners of the current threat panorama related to poaching and wildlife trafficking, but also provide insight into how the international community must leverage convergence to strengthen the political will, mobilize critical resources to combat illicit threat networks, and preserve these magnificent natural wonders for future generations.

In this session, you will hear from:

  • Gretchen Peters, Executive Director, The Satao Project
  • Varun Vira, Chief Operating Officer, C4ADS
  • Brooke Stearns Lawson, Senior Conflict and Organized Crime Advisor, USAID
  • Jeannie Cameron, Founder and Managing Director, JCIC

Each panelist will have approximately 12 minutes to share their perspectives. We will then open the floor for discussion and take questions for the panelists.

Ms. Peters will provide a presentation on some of converging criminal networks involved in wildlife trafficking.

Mr. Vira will inform us of C4Ads mapping of illicit networks and illicit financial flows.

Ms. Lawson will discuss how corruption and facilitators enable the illicit environment to thrive.

Finally, Ms. Cameron will sharpen our understanding of other converging threat networks involved in wildlife trafficking in Africa.

And with that, I give the floor to Ms. Gretchen Peters.