A diversity of plant and animal life is crucial to the survival of our planet and its sensitive ecosystems. Currently, around 1 million animal and plant species are threatened with extinction, with the current extinction rate 1000 times higher than the background rate. Of the 150,300 species on the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List, more than 42,100 are threatened with extinction, including 41% of amphibians, 37% of sharks and rays. 27% of mammals and 13% of birds. Drivers of wild animal species extinction include hunting, pollution, habitat destruction, and wildlife crime such as poaching and illegal wildlife trafficking. Against this backdrop, animal conservation has become critical for protecting and preserving the diverse species that inhabit our planet.
Alarming Levels of Global Wildlife Crime
Wildlife crime has reached alarming levels globally, posing a significant threat to animal populations and ecosystems. Activities such as poaching, illegal hunting, and the illegal trade of wildlife products have devastating consequences not only for individual animals, but also for countless species. These activities are driven by the demand for exotic pets, traditional medicines, luxury goods, as well as trophies. The scope of wildlife crime is vast, encompassing just a few examples: elephants targeted for their tusks, pangolins hunted for their scales, and sea turtles harvested for their shells. Wildlife crime is a highly profitable industry, with the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime estimating it to be a U.S. $8-10 billion industry annually, ranked alongside human trafficking and arms and drug dealing in terms of illicit profits. The scale and profitability of wildlife trafficking make it an attractive business for organized criminal networks, exacerbating the problem further. Not only do these activities cause immediate harm to individual animals, but they also disrupt ecological balance, destroy habitats, and endanger entire species.
The impact of wildlife crime and trafficking on animals is severe and far-reaching. Wild animals suffer immensely from the brutal practices employed in capturing, transporting, and exploiting them for profit. Many animals fall ill, are injured, starve or die when being captured or smuggled across borders. Moreover, the loss of individuals from their populations can have long-term consequences, disrupting breeding patterns, reducing genetic diversity, and compromising the resilience of ecosystems. Wildlife crime can also have indirect impacts on other animals, for example when non-target species are caught as by-catch or when invasive species are introduced into new habitats. Without effective measures to combat wildlife crime and trafficking, the future of countless species hangs in the balance, with irreversible consequences for both animals and the environment.
Wildlife crime can also pose a biosecurity hazard for both humans and other wild animal species, especially if it introduces viruses, bacteria or invasive species to native populations who are not resistant. There may also be risks to human health from killing, handling or transporting wild animals who may be carriers of zoonotic diseases i.e. diseases that can be transmitted for animals to humans.
CALS’ Efforts to Protect Wild Animals
The Center for Animal Law Studies at Lewis & Clark Law School has a rich history as a trailblazer and champion for protecting wild animals through the law. CALS is proud to offer multiple courses on wildlife law and wild animal protection as part of its Animal Law LLM and Animal Law MSL programs, designed for lawyers and non-lawyers respectively, who are seeking to protect animals through the legal system.
Global Wild Animal Law
Students enrolled in CALS’ online LLM in Animal Law and MSL in Animal Law degree programs who may be interested in wildlife careers and wildlife conservation may opt to enroll in the Global Wild Animal Law course taught by Professor Erica Lyman. This course focuses on wildlife law within the context of the global extinction crisis. It explores the critical relationship between international wildlife law and its implementation at the domestic level. Students delve into specific international treaties that are not extensively covered in other courses, gaining a comparative understanding of U.S. wildlife law and legal norms and principles from different states. This comparative analysis helps highlight barriers, tensions, and negotiated international outcomes. Additionally, the course examines the legal tools available under U.S. law to tackle pressing international wildlife issues, emphasizing the importance of wildlife protection as a matter of common international concern.
Professor Lyman brings a wealth of experience and expertise in international environmental law and animal conservation to the course on Global Wild Animal Law. Through the Global Law Alliance for Animals and the Environment, a collaboration of CALS and the Lewis & Clark Environmental Law Program, Professor Lyman teaches two in-person clinics focused on international animal and environmental law. She has firsthand experience in tackling pressing international environmental matters. Professor Lyman’s areas of focus include international wildlife trade, whaling, climate change, and other critical international environmental issues. She is a prolific author, regularly publishing in the field of international environmental law, with a particular emphasis on wildlife.
International Animal Law
Students interested in the broad intersection of international and comparative law and animal protection may also opt to enroll in CALS’ International Animal Law course, taught by Professor Rajesh Reddy. The course interrogates animal law developments within and among states. Close attention is paid to the historical contexts, legal principles, economic calculations, cultural paradigms, health and environmental considerations, and moral concerns that inform how states and international organizations seek to regulate animals’ interests in the present day. Against this backdrop, students will scrutinize past, present, and proposed treaties and declarations, as well as other legal instruments that seek to advance the interests of animals. In doing so, students will be encouraged to consider pragmatic approaches to realizing more robust animal protections around the world.
Professor Reddy has long stood at the vanguard of international animal law and animal legal personhood developments. He is a co-drafter of the Convention on Animal Protection for Public Health, Animal Well-Being, and the Environment, a draft treaty that seeks to elevate animal welfare and prevent pandemics by regulating if not banning high-risk contact with and mistreatment of animals. Through his consultancy work with the Animal Legal Defense Fund, he helped advance the groundbreaking legal effort that affirmed the discovery rights of a group of hippopotamuses facing mass slaughter in Colombia, with the resulting court order representing the first time that the legal personhood of nonhuman animals has been affirmed in a U.S. court outside of mere dicta.
CALS Alumni Working on Wildlife Conservation
As a leader in animal law education, CALS is proud to have helped educate animal advocates who are now hard at work protecting wild animals. With over 80 advanced degree alumni from over 25 countries, CALS alumni are making a difference for animals around the globe. For example, CALS alumna Gladys Kamasanyu (LLM’ 20, Uganda) is the Chief Magistrate with the Uganda Judiciary and the head of Africa’s first and only specialized wildlife court, the Uganda Wildlife Court located in Kampala. Gladys has successfully adjudicated many high-profile wildlife cases involving a number of illicit wildlife products like elephant ivory, pangolin scales, live pangolins, rhino horns and hippopotamus teeth. As a CALS Ambassador under CALS’ Global Ambassador Program (GAP), Gladys compiled a compendium of all wildlife laws protecting animals in Uganda and distributed the compendium to stakeholders involved in the fight against wildlife crime and other crimes against animals in the country.
Another CALS alumna and CALS Animal Law Teaching Fellow, Hira Jaleel (LLM’ 20, Pakistan) has litigated extensively to protect wild animals in Pakistan. Hira has been appointed amicus curiae (friend of the court) by the Lahore High Court in two wild animal related cases: one challenging the possession of exotic big cats and the other concerning a ban on the use of electronic decoys in hunting. Hira has also conducted extensive research on Pakistan’s statutory regime regarding the breeding and ownership of exotic big cats, comparing it to the United States’ attempts to regulate and legislate in this area. Her article on this topic was recently published by the Journal of Animal & Environmental Law.
Aspiring professionals can acquire the specialized knowledge and skills necessary for a successful career in animal conservation by obtaining an advanced animal law degree. Our comprehensive curriculum equips students with an understanding of the legal complexities surrounding wildlife conservation. Furthermore, CALS’ online degree options make the programs accessible to individuals from various backgrounds and geographical locations, providing flexibility for those who may already be working in the field or seeking a wildlife career.
A career in animal conservation is not only intellectually stimulating but also immensely rewarding. As wildlife populations continue to face threats from habitat loss, illegal wildlife trade, and climate change, the need for skilled professionals in animal law becomes increasingly crucial. Through an advanced degree in animal law, you can contribute significantly to the preservation and protection of our planet’s precious biodiversity.