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Luxury Fashion Wildlife Contraband in the USA


The fashion industry is one of the largest markets for illegal wildlife products. This study examined US luxury fashion-related wildlife seizures made between 2003 and 2013 to better guide detection, enforcement, and policy. The findings of this study indicate that the number of incidents has increased over the 11-year period, while the number of associated items seized has decreased over this time. Of these seizures, nearly 88% were produced goods. A small proportion of genera made up the majority of seizures, with reptiles in particular accounting for 84% of incidents. Over half of all wildlife was wild-caught and was exported from eight countries. Based on these findings, it is suggested that policy be enacted relating specifically to the use of exotic leathers and furs, and that situational crime prevention alongside commitments to sustainability from fashion brands be used to reduce illegal imports and improve industry sustainability.

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  1. CITES Appendix I includes species that are threatened with extinction. The trade in these specimens is highly regulated, and only permitted in exceptional circumstances (CITES 2019).

  2. Search trade terms included: belts, clothes, fur products (small), fur products (large), garments, handbags, leather items, leather products (small), leather products (large), shoes, spectacle frames, wallets, and watchstraps. The results relate broadly to all commercial fashion, not only luxury.

  3. The CRAVED model was developed by Clarke (1999) to systematically examine why some goods are more heavily targeted for theft than others. The acronym, which breaks down to Concealable, Removable, Available, Valuable, and Enjoyable, has been applied successfully to a wide range of stolen goods, including those found within the illegal wildlife trade (Moreto and Lemieux 2015; Petrossian and Clarke 2014; Pires 2015).

  4. The CAPTURED model is an expansion of the CRAVED model with specific applicability to wildlife trade. Developed by Moreto and Lemieux (2015), the acronym stands for Concealable, Available, Processable, Transferrable, Useable, Removable, Enjoyable, and Desirable.


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We would like to extend our thanks to the reviewers who took the time to thoroughly review this manuscript and provide recommendations. These were found greatly useful, and we believe strengthened the piece. We would like to thank Diba Rouzbahani for her help in producing the heatmap visualizations.

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Correspondence to Monique C. Sosnowski.

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Sosnowski, M.C., Petrossian, G.A. Luxury Fashion Wildlife Contraband in the USA. EcoHealth 17, 94–110 (2020).

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  • Illegal wildlife trade
  • Fashion
  • Environmental criminology
  • Seizures
  • Luxury