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What Kinds of Wildlife Are Seized at U.S. Ports?

GAO-18-7, October 12, 2017

The United States is a major market for the illegal wildlife trade, prompting the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to monitor shipments at ports of entry. Between 2007 and 2016, the Fish and Wildlife Service seized a diverse range of wildlife and wildlife products that violated wildlife protection laws such as the Endangered Species Act.

The graphic below shows the 10 U.S. ports where the most wildlife shipments were seized each year from 2007 through 2016. Choose a year from the drop-down list; then hover over a port to see the top products seized at that location.

Top 10 U.S. Ports for Seized Wildlife Shipments – 2007-2016

101-20031-10011-301-10201-300Number of seized shipments

Source: GAO analysis of U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) data; FWS, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and GAO (photos). | GAO-18-7

1. We are using the generic names for seized wildlife as described in the Fish and Wildlife Service's Law Enforcement Management Information System. Note that for 183 of the approximately 41,798 records we analyzed in the system, there was no generic name provided. As a result, those shipments are not included in the results.
2. About 90 percent of seized wildlife shipments recorded by FWS from 2007 to 2016 were seized upon import into the United States.
3. Our analysis compares number of shipments seized. There are many ways to quantify the wildlife in a shipment, e.g. the number of wildlife products in a container or the size and weight of each animal or product. A shipment may consist of only one item or hundreds of items and as the information about shipment quantity was measured differently, we did not attempt to estimate the overall quantity of wildlife involved in this analysis.
4. Photos shown in the above graphic are for illustrative purposes only.

To find out more about our work on combating wildlife trafficking, check out our pics on Flickr or read the full report, GAO-18-7.


  1. 1. Seizure data provides a helpful illustration of wildlife that has been confiscated at U.S. ports but there are limitations on what these data explain concerning the illegal wildlife trade. For example, the number of seized shipments and location of seizures may be influenced by many factors, such as variations in illicit trade flows and level and efficacy of enforcement, and therefore may not reflect the size of these illicit markets.