Around the World

Poaching, Trafficking a Menace for Already Endangered Animals

A global phenomenon threatens some of the most endangered animals on the planet. Poaching and illegal trading are targeting dwindling populations of elephants in Africa; majestic big cats such as tigers in Asia; and rhinoceros populations in several parts of the world.

China is the No. 1 destination in this illegal trade, where rising incomes are driving a demand for exotic pets, trinkets, traditional medicines and rare foods, with the United States coming in second. But the worldwide trade is so widespread, so pervasive that it's now estimated at up to $20 billion per year, second only to arms and drug smuggling, according to the U.S. Department of State.

One of the most critical situations is the slaughter of elephants in Central and Eastern Africa. Poachers are killing tens of thousands of the animals every year, fueling the illegal trade in ivory.

In late October, customs officers in Hong Kong confiscated nearly 4 tons of ivory, worth more than $3 million dollars in the biggest such seizure ever. Earlier this summer, authorities fined two men after finding nearly a ton of ivory in jewelry stores in New York City's Diamond District. And in mid-July, customs officers in Bangkok, Thailand, seized more than 150 elephant tusks hidden in crates aboard a flight from Kenya.

Thailand is a top transit hub for the illegal wildlife trade. All manner of animals, from lizards and turtles to baby panthers, leopards and tigers have been discovered, even in passengers' checked luggage. Late in October in northern Thailand, police intercepted a driver with 16 tiger cubs in the back seat of his truck. This week, customs officials at a checkpoint seized 600 cobras from a truck transporting them from Malaysia for use in food and traditional medicine.

Governments and private organizations are doing what they can to stem the trade. In 2005, the State Department created the Coalition Against Wildlife Trafficking, a public-private partnership of government agencies and non-governmental organizations, with the stated goals of improving enforcement, reducing consumer demand, and catalyzing high-level political will to fight the illegal wildlife trade.

At the recent "Partnership Meeting on Wildlife Trafficking" in Washington, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton called the illegal trade a "national security issue, a public health issue and an economic security issue," calling on the intelligence community to study the impact of large-scale wildlife trafficking on security interests. She also called for the creation of a global system of regional wildlife enforcement networks, pledging $100,000 from the State Department to help get it started. In Russia, President Vladimir Putin has undertaken various stunts to draw attention to threatened animals (most memorably, a motorized hang glider flight over Siberia to lead endangered white cranes on their migration route).

This week Christiane talks about the insidious trade in animals and animal parts with Robert Hormats. He's the Under Secretary for Economic Growth, Energy and the Environment at the State Department.

  • Early Glance: Railroad companies

    Shares of some top railroad companies are down at 10 a.m.: CSX fell $.70 or 2.2 percent, to $31.36. Canadian National Railway Co. fell $.78 or 1.1 percent, to $70.18. Canadian Pacific Railway Ltd. fell ...

  • Business Highlights

    ___ School spending by affluent is widening wealth gap Education is supposed to help bridge the gap between the wealthiest people and everyone else. Ask the experts, and they'll count the ways: Preschool ...

  • Pilot Steers Hot Air Balloon Through Giant Underground Cave
    Pilot Steers Hot Air Balloon Through Giant Underground Cave

    Hot-air balloons are known for floating gracefully into the wild blue yonder and giving passengers a spectacular view of the horizon unfolding beneath them. This picturesque tradition is what makes Austrian Ivan Trifonov's balloon exploit such a head scratcher. Rather than vault into the air, Trifonov took his balloon, complete with custom-made seat, into the depths of a cave. In a feat of aerial precision, Trifonov slowly descended into the Mamet Cave in Croatia, which is 675 feet deep. Video of the event, filmed on Sept. 18, was taken from all angles and looks stunning if claustrophobia-inducing.

  • Up to 18 exposed to U.S. Ebola patient, including children
    Up to 18 exposed to U.S. Ebola patient, including children

    By Lisa Maria Garza and Marice Richter DALLAS (Reuters) - Health experts were observing up to 18 people, including children, who had contact with the first person to be diagnosed with the deadly Ebola virus in the United States, officials said on Wednesday. Confirmation that a man who flew to Texas from Liberia later fell ill with the hemorrhagic fever prompted U.S. health officials to take steps to contain the virus, which has killed at least 3,338 people in Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea, the World Health Organization said. ...

  • Garry Kasparov: Putin is 'the most dangerous man' in the world and a bigger threat to the U.S. than the …
    Garry Kasparov: Putin is 'the most dangerous man' in the world and a bigger threat to the U.S. than the …

    Arguably the world's best chess player ever, Garry Kasparov is on a new mission. He hopes to convince the world that the biggest threat to global unrest is not the Islamic State, al-Qaida or North Korea. Instead it is Vladimir Putin, Russia's president from 2000 to 2008 and then again from 2012 to today.

  • ‘Netflix for pirates’ app Popcorn Time finally hits the iPhone and iPad
    ‘Netflix for pirates’ app Popcorn Time finally hits the iPhone and iPad

    Movie and TV show pirates, this is the moment you’ve been waiting for: Popcorn Time is finally available for the iPhone, iPad and iPod touch. Of course, there’s a catch… you’ll need a jailbroken device in order to access and install it. Popcorn Time started as a desktop app that offered a unique twist on video torrents. Instead of using one piece of software to find torrent files, another to download them and a third to watch whatever movie or TV show was downloaded, Popcorn Time offered users a sleek Netflix-style app that was able to search, download and view videos all in one tidy package. Then, Popcorn Time went mobile this past summer with a great Android app that took all of

  • Turkey pushes for more than 'dropping tons of bombs' on IS
    Turkey pushes for more than 'dropping tons of bombs' on IS

    Ankara (AFP) - Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan pressed the West on Wednesday to find a long-term solution to the crises in Syria and Iraq, saying dropping "tons of bombs" on Islamic State militants would only provide temporary respite.

  • Doctors Net Billions From Drug Firms
    Doctors Net Billions From Drug Firms

    The 2010 Affordable Care Act included a provision dubbed the Sunshine Act, which requires manufacturers of drugs and medical devices to disclose the payments they make to physicians and teaching hospitals each year for services such as consulting or research. The database revealed some eye-popping totals, such as the $122.5 million paid by Roche Holding AG's Genentech unit to City of Hope medical center in Duarte, Calif., as royalties on sales of several products including blockbuster cancer treatments Herceptin and Avastin. Genentech licensed patents from City of Hope based on research the medical center conducted in the early 1980s. The company said that excluding the City of Hope royalties, about 85% of the physician payments it reported to CMS were focused on drug research.