From Africa, President Obama strikes back against poaching epidemic
President Obama’s African trip is already paying off in a big way for wildlife. In a major speech in Tanzania on July 1, Obama announced a new policy that could mean the difference between extinction and survival for iconic species like elephants, big cats, rhinos, and other hard-hit victims of the international poaching epidemic that has surged in recent years.
Speaking to diplomats and members of the media, the President said that his Administration will provide funding and expertise from law enforcement and federal agencies to protect wildlife from illegal trafficking -- “An issue,” as he put it, “that’s inseparable from Africa’s identity and its prosperity.” The White House will also work to strengthen laws and regulations here in the United States, in recognition our own country’s role in the problem.
The White House announcement comes on the heels of IFAW’s new report Criminal Nature: the Global Security Implications of the Illegal Wildlife Trade, which highlights the connections between poaching, terrorism, and international criminal syndicates, showing how the illegal wildlife trade has far-reaching implications for global security. Thankfully, leaders are starting to take notice: the United Nations Secretary General and the heads of the world’s top 8 economies (the “G8”) have also recently called for action to crack down on poaching and wildlife trafficking. Last year, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton declared December 4 “Wildlife Conservation Day,” and then-Senator (and current Secretary of State) John Kerry warned about terrorist poaching outfits that “operate in remote territories and cross borders with impunity, wreaking havoc on villages and families. Increasingly, criminal gangs and militias are wiping out entire herds and killing anyone who gets in their way.”
As we describe in Criminal Nature, radical groups like the Lord’s Resistance Army and the Janjaweed Militia have been implicated in massive slaughters of elephants; the growing involvement of terrorists and criminal syndicates makes poaching a matter of life and death—not just for animals but also for the rangers that protect them (more than 1,000 of whom have been killed in the last decade) and the communities living in the shadow of terrorist organizations. The new executive order will go a long way toward reforming the system, putting violent criminals and wildlife traffickers on notice that they can’t get away with murder any longer.
— Slash (@Slash) July 1, 2013
— matt sorum (@mattsorum) July 2, 2013
Every 15 minutes on average, an elephant is butchered for its tusks, and grim new records are being set each year for ivory seizures. Skyrocketing profits are the biggest driver of this carnage. Estimates peg the industry at $19 billion per year, and rhino horns, tiger pelts, elephant tusks, exotic birds and pangolin scales have become the currency underwriting violent activities in central Africa and other unstable regions, in part because of lax penalties for offenders and the low risk of detection.
I am extremely gratified by President Obama’s commitment to taking on this crisis, and ask you to join me in showing our thanks. Let’s make sure this victory doesn’t go unrecognized, so take a moment now to send him a message by clicking on this link.