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05/30/2014

FEATURE: Homeland Security Investigations takes wildlife trafficking investigative knowledge to Southeast Asia

A role player is taken into custody while a mock search of a residence takes place in a practical exercise at HSI's Advanced Wildlife Trafficking Investigations Training in Thailand.
The Deputy Superintendent of the Thai Natural Resources and Environmental Crime Suppression Division Pol. Lt. Col. Rangsiman Vijitthomrongsak Bird provides a briefing for a surveillance practical exercise at the HSI Advanced Wildlife Trafficking Investigations Training in Thailand.
1st image: A role player is taken into custody while a mock search of a residence takes place in a practical exercise at HSI's Advanced Wildlife Trafficking Investigations Training in Thailand. 2nd image: The Deputy Superintendent of the Thai Natural Resources and Environmental Crime Suppression Division Pol. Lt. Col. Rangsiman Vijitthomrongsak Bird provides a briefing for a surveillance practical exercise at the HSI Advanced Wildlife Trafficking Investigations Training in Thailand.

BANGKOK — Whether it's targeting the unlawful smuggling and trading in fish bladders, rhino horns, turtles and tortoises, black coral or other protected species on the verge of extinction, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) is committed to conducting wildlife trafficking investigations to stem the illegal trade in specimens of wild animals and plants that threatens their survival.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), National Marine Fisheries Service, share primary responsibility for administration of the Endangered Species Act and the Lacey Act. HSI, with U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP), actively enforces these laws

HSI uses its customs authorities to investigate illegal wildlife smuggled over the border through concealment and a variety of fraudulent schemes and practices including false invoicing, false claims of origin, false markings/labeling, misclassification and false description.

On Feb. 11, the White House announced the National Strategy for Combating Wildlife Trafficking, highlighting its guiding principles: to strengthen domestic and global enforcement; reduce demand for illegally traded wildlife at home and abroad and strengthen partnerships with international partners, local communities, non-governmental organizations (NGO), private industry and others to combat illegal wildlife poaching and trade.

In support of this Strategy, HSI Bangkok hosted the Advanced Wildlife Trafficking Investigations Training in Cha-am, Thailand, in April. HSI Bangkok was joined by HSI's Commercial Fraud Unit, FWS and Freeland, which is an NGO focusing on wildlife trafficking and human trafficking. During the 5-day training, instructors provided advanced investigation techniques to the participants through classroom lecture, practical demonstration and hands-on practice and application during real world scenarios. The focus of the training was the investigative steps leading to a controlled delivery. Fourteen Thai officers and six officers from Laos participated.

The advanced training, funded by the Department of State, International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Section, was a follow-on course that was hosted by HSI Bangkok in Oct. 2013.

"Poaching and killing endangered species for commercial gain is a tragic crime against the animal kingdom and nature as a whole," said Lisa Wainwright, HSI program manager for environmental crimes. "HSI takes every opportunity to join our federal, private sector and international partners to share our knowledge, experience and investigative techniques designed to protect and preserve threatened and endangered species."

Pending future funding, HSI plans to expand the joint training format to other countries identified as high-risk locations for wildlife trafficking in coordination with the USG taskforce.