The president launched the crackdown during his visit to Tanzania earlier this week, which brings hope for species whose populations are suffering from the effects of the recent surge in poaching that is estimated to be a billion dollar industry and is now being considered both a global crisis and a security threat.
During his speech, the president said, “poaching and trafficking is threatening Africa’s wildlife, so today I issued a new executive order to better organize U.S. government efforts in this fight so that we can cooperate further with the Tanzanian government and others. And this includes additional millions of dollars to help countries across the region build their capacity to meet this challenge, because the entire world has a stake in making sure that we preserve Africa’s beauty for future generations.”
It’s believed that 30,000 elephants are killed every year for their ivory, while rhino poaching saw a 3000 percent increase between 2007 and 2011, and rangers continue to lose their lives in an effort to protect these animals.
“Poaching operations have expanded beyond small-scale, opportunistic actions to coordinated slaughter commissioned by armed and organized criminal syndicates,” states the order. “The survival of protected wildlife species such as elephants, rhinos, great apes, tigers, sharks, tuna, and turtles has beneficial economic, social, and environmental impacts that are important to all nations.”
The order allocates $10 million in State Department funds to fight the illegal trade and promises to assist foreign governments with anti-trafficking activities, in addition to making an effort to reduce the demand domestically and abroad.
It also pledges to establish a Presidential Task Force on Wildlife Trafficking composed of the State, Interior and Justice departments to develop strategies to combat wildlife trafficking and an Advisory Council on Wildlife Trafficking that will make recommendations and assist the task force. The Transnational Organized Crime Strategy will also now be considering whether to add wildlife trafficking to the list of crimes it covers, putting it on the same level as arms and human trafficking.
The news is being welcomed by conservation organizations including the Wildlife Conservation Society, World Wildlife Fund, TRAFFIC and the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW), among others, and follows IFAW’s release of a report that highlights the “connections between poaching, terrorism, and international criminal syndicates, showing how the illegal wildlife trade has far-reaching implications for global security.”
“President Obama’s commitment to help stop the global crime wave that is emptying the continent’s forests and savannas is welcome news. It gives a critical boost for everyone involved in fighting wildlife trafficking ― from rangers on the ground to local conservation groups to decision-makers around the globe,” said Carter Roberts, President & CEO of WWF-US.
Photo credit: Thinkstock
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