International trade in wildlife is a multibillion-dollar industry that, in some cases, has taken species to the brink of extinction. To address the problem, several countries, including the United States, created an international treaty--the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora--that took effect in 1975. The United States also has domestic laws, such as the Endangered Species Act, that protect species. The protections provided by the Convention and domestic laws can differ. For example, in some cases, U.S. laws afford more stringent protections to species than the Convention does; such stricter protections can prevent U.S. interests from participating in trade that is permitted by the Convention. The Convention's member countries meet periodically to discuss implementation of the Convention and are scheduled next to meet in Thailand in October 2004. In anticipation of this meeting, GAO was asked to report on (1) how implementation of the Convention has changed over the years, (2) U.S. funding and other resources spent on Convention-related activities, and (3) the relationship between the Convention and some domestic laws. The Department of the Interior and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration generally agreed with the information in the GAO report.
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