Reef Shark, © Ed Gullekson

International Conservation

International Conservation 101

While Defenders of Wildlife is primarily focused on conserving species native to the United States, our work doesn’t stop at the country’s borders.

Thousands of at-risk plants and animals that live and migrate outside the United States are affected by our collective actions. And many of these species are facing serious threats to their survival, primarily due to trade (domestic and international, legal and illegal) and habitat destruction.

U.S. laws, such as the Endangered Species Act and the Lacey Act, offer some protections for species found around the world, but they can’t help when the animals are being traded by people in other countries. That’s why Defenders of Wildlife’s International Conservation team is fighting for imperiled sharks, parrots, frogs, vaquitas, sea turtles, mangrove forests (which are important ecosystems for many of these animals) and other species.

What Defenders Is Doing to Help

Defenders is working to protect species around the world on many fronts, including:

  • Using existing international conventions, cooperation and collaboration to gain protection for species at-risk due to unsustainable legal trade and illegal trade
  • Advocating for changes that make our domestic and international laws and trade agreements promoting the protection of wildlife to be more effective, efficient, and enforceable. 
  • Combatting the illegal wildlife trade by advocating for law enforcement support in Congress, and educating domestic consumers about the impact their purchases and actions can have on imperiled species
  • Raising awareness of international conservation issues through education, comic books, identification guides, and training workshops

The International Conservation Program also represents Defenders at international gatherings to discuss and determine policies that impact wildlife. Some of these include the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES), the Convention on Migratory Species (CMS), the Inter-American Convention for the Protection and Conservation of Sea Turtles, and the International Whaling Convention (IWC), as well as regional fishery management organization meetings, such as the Inter-American Tropical Tuna Commission (IATTC) and the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tuna (ICCAT).