Blogging About Critters Since 2007

Monday, January 4, 2010

Trafficking Should be Crime Story, Not Wildlife Story

Interesting. This piece is in the Huffington Post, and it's by Bryan Christy, author of The Lizard King. He says inflated wildlife smuggling numbers are hurting the fight against the crime. I myself had no idea that the numbers were inflated.

He makes a lot of sense.
In other words, puffing wildlife smuggling to sell stories hurts efforts to fight crime.

Recall any wildlife smuggling story you've ever read or watched in the past 20 years. Now, substitute the word "cocaine" for whatever wildlife is featured in the story. Chances are you'll see a bizarre overemphasis on cocaine and how it grows and who sells it on street corners and little attention on major traffickers, their national and transnational syndicates, and the government regulators and prosecutors who failed to stop the trafficking. You will see no names beyond the lowest level traffickers. You would demand more in a narcotics trafficking story, and you would hope for more in a child trafficking story, but you won't see more in a wildlife crime story because too often wildlife crime stories are little more than eco-tourism pieces with sad endings.

In the past few years, the U.S. Justice Department's lead environmental crimes prosecutors have been making the pitch both here and abroad that investigators, prosecutors, and judges should pursue wildlife criminals as traditional criminals, charging them with smuggling, money laundering, etc. Reporting on wildlife crime likewise should treat the matter as a crime story not a wildlife story. More time should be spent on paper and money trails, less on jungle adventures. Choices count. With paltry government resources allocated to fighting international wildlife crime, journalists are often nature's best hope against smugglers. Weak reporting kills wildlife.

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