July 2, 2013

Obama Administration Takes Action Against Wildlife Trafficking

New Executive Order Comes After Letter from Sen. Whitehouse and Others

Washington, DC – Last month, U.S. Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), Co-Chair of the International Conservation Caucus, joined several of his colleagues in writing to President Obama to express concern over the wildlife poaching crisis in Africa and other parts of the world.  Yesterday, the President signed a new Executive Order committing his Administration to combat these harmful activities.

“I thank the President for taking strong action to protect vulnerable species from being decimated by poachers,” said Whitehouse.  “This Executive Order sends a strong signal to the criminal networks benefiting from illicit wildlife trade that the United States will not stand idly by as our world’s great species are hunted towards extinction.  This type of trafficking not only jeopardizes healthy wildlife populations but funds activities that threaten our national security.”

The Executive Order establishes a Presidential Task Force on Wildlife Trafficking which will be responsible for developing and implementing a National Strategy for Combating Wildlife Trafficking.  Leading the Taskforce will be the Secretary of State, Secretary of the Interior, and Attorney General, or their designees.

On November 15th, 2012, Senator Whitehouse and Representative Ed Royce (R-CA) co-chaired an International Conservation Caucus hearing to highlight the devastation caused by wildlife poaching and the risks it poses to international stability and national security.

Elephants, rhinoceroses, great apes, tigers, sharks, tuna, and turtles are commonly targeted by illegal poaching activity.  These species can support wildlife tourism in many developing countries, but trafficking can undermine tourists’ confidence in the safety of those regions.  In the 1970s, as many as one million elephants are believed to have roamed Sub-Saharan Africa.  By the time poaching was banned in 1989, just 600,000 remained.  It is thought that at least 25,000 African elephants were killed in 2011 alone.   

Additional details on the President’s Executive Order are available here.


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