Wildlife inspectors present “The Black Market for Wildlife and America’s Front-line Defense”

Rhyan Tompkins and Cindy Mercado presented the Foreman Biodiversity Lecture on March 5.
Photo by Austin Sigl.

By Sarah Shirley

Rhyan Tompkins and Cindy Mercado, wildlife inspectors with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, presented the Foreman Bioversity Lecture on “The Black Market for Wildlife and America’s Front-line Defense” on March 5 at Stetson Law’s Gulfport campus.

“Our job is to capture the illicit trade and facilitate the legal movement of certain animals,” said U.S. Fish and Wildlife Inspector Cindy Mercado. People smuggle animals into the United States daily through a means of many creative ways.

“I never thought that people would go to such extreme measures to get animals into the United States,” said Mercado. “Smuggling illegal wildlife into our nation is a crime.”

The Fish and Wildlife inspectors work with approximately 140 inspectors nationally, in effort to enforce the federal wildlife laws. Mercado emphasized the need for change to our legal system so that the punishment is suitable for the crime, and hopes that people begin to better understand the effect of illegal wildlife in on our nation.   

Wildlife inspectors of the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service are the nation’s front-line defense against illegal wildlife trade, a criminal enterprise that threatens species worldwide. The presenters led a talk on global wildlife trafficking and transnational organized crime and provided an in-depth look into federal wildlife investigations and smuggling activity. 

Tompkins and Mercado have more than two decades of combined wildlife inspector experience.