Steven Galster, Director of the Bangkok-based Freeland Foundation, has been a creator and on-the-ground implementer of bold and aggressive counter-wildlife trafficking programs since the early 1990’s. Freeland Foundation (originally, under the name WildAid) was launched in 2003 in Bangkok as an organization dedicated to stopping wildlife and human trafficking.
Mr. Galster’s expertise on international wildlife trafficking has been highly sought, and he has been a featured speaker at international conferences and other fora. He addressed INTERPOL’s National Central Bureaus (NCB) Conference in Lyon, France, in 2012 and 2013, which brought together senior police officials from around the world to discuss current policing challenges. In addition, Mr. Galster has previously briefed high-level members of the U.S. Government, including members of Congress, and members of foreign governments. In addition to serving as Chief of Party of the USAID-sponsored ARREST Program, he also serves as International Technical Advisor to the Government of Vietnam’s Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment, where is helping to develop and guide Vietnam’s demand reduction and good governance campaigns surrounding wildlife trafficking.
Using his insight into black market trafficking, between 1992 and 1993, Galster led undercover investigations for the Environmental Investigation Agency into African elephant and rhino poaching and trafficking in Central and Southern Africa, in coordination with Zambia’s Anti-Corruption Commission and other authorities.
Between 1994-1997, Galster helped the Russian Government design and launch Operation Amba, a program set up to rescue the remaining Siberian tiger population from poachers selling tiger skins and tiger parts to neighboring China. This was the only program of its kind until now to result in an increase and stabilization of the local tiger population (it evolved into the current Russian Government “Department Tiger”). In 1998 Galster helped set up the Russian NGO “Phoenix” to take over responsibility of monitoring and supporting Department Tiger.
In subsequent years Galster designed and helped launch several conservation organizations and networks that are still operating today, including: WildAid (USA), Wildlife Alliance (Cambodia), Phoenix (Russia), ASEAN-WEN (Southeast Asia, the world’s first “WEN”), and FREELAND (Thailand). Most recently he helped design the new Horn of Africa-WEN (HA-WEN). His efforts led to a number of media pieces in both print and on television that exposed the horrific nature of wildlife trafficking and often resulted in the arrest and take-down of the criminal organizations engaged in the activities.
Galster and his team at Freeland and ARREST-Asia are now working with African counterparts to develop ARREST-Africa (Africa’s Regional Response to Endangered Species Trafficking). He and his team are currently on the ground in Asia and Africa, working alongside NGOs, government agencies, international organizations, and the media and private sector companies to monitor and suppress poaching, trafficking, and demand. Galster is currently co-authoring a study called “Reversing the Tide: Wildlife Poaching and Trafficking, Charting Trends and Counter-Measures”.