Harrison Ford Warns Against Illegal Animal Trafficking

The actor's PSA campaign opposes killing and trafficking of exotic animals.


June 5, 2008 — -- When moviegoers settle in to watch the new Indiana Jones movie in theaters, they may first see an unexpected message from its star, Harrison Ford.

Before Indiana Jones tries to save the artifacts in the movie, Ford will tell the audience to save the animals.

"Our endangered animals are being destroyed by illegal wildlife trade. It's up to us to stop it. Never buy illegal wildlife products. When the buying stops, the killing can too," the actor says in one of three public service announcements taped for an international campaign to curb illegal animal trafficking.

You can watch all three ads by clicking Here.

Ford has teamed with the U.S. State Department and the nonprofit organization WildAid to promote the message around the world.

"Many of the world's most magnificent animals are being pushed toward extinction by the illegal trade and products made from their body parts," Ford says in another ad, standing among alligator coats and holding snakeskin boots. "When you travel abroad you may be offered some of these products. It might look nothing like the animal itself but don't be fooled. An animal has been killed to make one of these."

Ford is an avid environmentalist and is the vice chairman of the group Conservation International's board of directors.

"People pay attention when someone like Harrison Ford delivers the message so we're lucky to have him do the ads," Assistant Secretary of State for Oceans Environment and Science Claudia McMurray told ABC News.

The State Department said it will distribute the ads through more than 30 of its embassies around the world. Already, they have been shown on television and in movie theaters in India and Brazil, some of the most populous countries that also happen to be the origin for many of the poached animals.

"Given the global nature of this campaign, I think we have the capacity to reach millions of people," McMurray said in a phone interview from New York, where she will unveil the ads at the United Nations alongside actress and animal rights activist Bo Derek, who has also served as the secretary of state's special envoy for wildlife trafficking issues.

"I think when Harrison Ford says "don't buy it" and "buying stops the killing," he'll have more effect than all of us put together," Derek told ABC News in an interview after the unveiling.

Derek serves on WildAid's board of directors and became passionate about wildlife trafficking after a trip to the Galapagos Islands several years ago where she was shocked to learn about the poaching of sharks for their fins.

"I was in one of the most pristine, protected areas in the world but found out the population was being decimated," Derek said.

WildAid has since distributed ads featuring actor Jackie Chan and basketball superstar Yao Ming, resulting in a significant reduction in shark poaching, Derek said.

The focus is not only international, the publicity campaign seeks to spread the word domestically as well.

McMurray said that the United States is the second-largest market in the world for illegally trafficked animals, behind only China, where tigers from India and southeast Asia are used for traditional medicines.

"We decided that we not only need to help other countries with their enforcement but also tell our own citizens they should not be helping with the trade," McMurray said.

The United States is a large market for endangered pets like exotic birds, snakes and turtles, particularly from South and Central America, according to McMurray. Many of the animals are trafficked through organized crime rings, she said.

The United States is a member of the Coalition Against Wildlife Trafficking, which seeks to end the animal trade, along with the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, Chile and India, as well as a bevy of nongovernmental organization partners.

The publicity campaign doesn't only target potential buyers of animals but also those who might consider poaching an animal for its valuable parts.

In one ad titled "Situation," Ford stands in front of a map and explains how the market for animals only emboldens the animal trade.

"When the buying stops -- the killing can too. Case closed," Ford says.

ABC News' Alison Kenworthy contributed to this report.