David Kirkby, veteran U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) Special Agent, talks about wildlife law enforcement. He tells “The WildLife” host Laurel Neme about two of his most prominent cases: smuggling of primates for research institutions; and Operation Arachnid, an undercover investigation into the illegal trade in tarantulas.
David Kirkby was a US FWS Special Agent for twenty years, from 1988 until he retired in 2008. Raised in North Canton, Ohio, Kirkby worked for years in the federal wildlife refuge system, starting in the west desert of Utah before moving to Montana’s Lee Metcalf Wildlife Refuge, and then the Crab Orchard Wildlife Refuge in southern Illinois. From there, he moved into US FWS’s law enforcement division, first as a wildlife inspector at O’Hare International Airport in Chicago. That helped prepare him for another shift, as a special agent. In 1988, after additional extensive training, he began as a FWS Special Agent, with his first duty station in Montgomery, Alabama. Eventually, Kirkby moved back to Chicago, where he pursued numerous complex multi-year undercover investigations, including ones on primate smuggling and on the pet tarantula trade. This episode of “The WildLife” was posted on August XX, 2011.
The WildLife is a show that explores the mysteries of the animal world through interviews with scientists, authors and other wildlife investigators. It airs every Monday from 1-2 pm EST on The Radiator, WOMM-LP, 105.9 FM in Burlington, Vermont.
Jessica Speart, author of Winged
Obsession: The Pursuit of the World's Most Notorious Butterfly Smuggler, discusses
illegal trade of rare butterflies. She tells “The WildLife” host Laurel Neme about
the real-life characters in her book: Yoshi Kojima, the world’s most wanted
butterfly smuggler, and the rookie US Fish and Wildlife agent, Ed Newcomer, who
finally brings him down. The trade in rare butterfly species is a lucrative
business. While there is much trade that is legal, the illegal butterfly trade
could be worth up to $200 million each year. “Butterfly collectors with the
financial means will do whatever necessary to obtain the specimens they want,” Speart
says. For some, it’s like stamp collecting. For others, it’s the equivalent of
collecting a Renoir or Van Gogh.
loss is the most significant threat to butterflies, poaching adds to the stress
on these delicate insects – so much so that when criminals target the rare species,
extinction becomes a real possibility. Butterfly poachers often pursue the most
endangered species, and many prowl national parks where they collect butterfly
eggs to raise in a controlled environment. They do this so that they can end up
with perfect specimens—and a higher price. Whenever the wings are damaged, the
value of the butterfly drops dramatically. As Speart describes in this
interview, “The way you get a perfect specimen is to kill them shortly after
they’re born.” There’s no other way to make sure its wings remain unused and in
is a freelance journalist specializing in wildlife enforcement issues. She's
been published in the New York Times Magazine, OMNI, Travel + Leisure, Audubon,
National Wildlife, Mother Jones, Delta's Sky magazine, and many others. She is
also the author of ten crime novels featuring the fictional character of US Fish
and Wildlife Service special agent Rachel Porter. Rachel has an unwavering
devotion to tracking down the enemies of rare and endangered species and, in
each book, solves a mystery focused around real world wildlife crimes. Her most
recent book, Winged
Obsession, is Jessica’s first non-fiction book. This episode of “The WildLife” aired on The Radiator,
WOMM-LP, 105.9 FM in Burlington, Vermont on April 4, 2011.