U.S. Pursues Global Strategy to End Trafficking in Wildlife

Hillary Clinton to ask intelligence community to look into illegal wildlife trade; pledges $100,000 to launch new global system of enforcement

 

Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton called today for a global strategy to protect wildlife in their environments and begin to dry up the demand for trafficked wildlife goods. “I’m calling for the creation of a global system of regional wildlife enforcement networks to take advantage of those networks that already are operating and the lessons we have learned from them.  The sooner we get this off the ground, the better, and to that end, the State Department is pledging $100,000 to help get this new global system up and running,” she said at a Partnership Meeting on Wildlife Trafficking, attended by conservation groups and representatives of several countries at the Department of State in Washington, D.C.

“I regret to say the United States is the second-largest destination market for illegally trafficked wildlife in the world.”

 

Elephants are being illegally killed across Africa at the highest rates in a decade, according to a special investigation that was the cover story in the October issue of National Geographic. Click on the cover image to read the story.

“Everyone contributes to the continued demand for illegal animal goods,” Clinton said. “Wildlife might be targeted and killed across Asia and Africa, but their furs, tusks, bones, and horns are sold all over the world.  Smuggled goods from poached animals find their way to Europe, Australia, China, and the United States.  I regret to say the United States is the second-largest destination market for illegally trafficked wildlife in the world.  And that is something we are going to address.”

Clinton thanked the conservation groups attending today’s meeting, noting appreciation for their invaluable work.  “But the truth is they cannot solve this problem alone.  None of us can.  This is a global challenge that spans continents and crosses oceans, and we need to address it with partnerships that are as robust and far-reaching as the criminal networks we seek to dismantle,” she said. “Therefore, we need governments, civil society, businesses, scientists, and activists to come together to educate people about the harms of wildlife trafficking.  We need law enforcement personnel to prevent poachers from preying on wildlife.  We need trade experts to track the movement of goods and help enforce existing trade laws.  We need finance experts to study and help undermine the black markets that deal in wildlife.  And most importantly, perhaps, we need to reach individuals, to convince them to make the right choices about the goods they purchase.”

There’s no quick fix, Clinton added. “But by working closely, internationally, with all of these partners, we can take important steps to protect wildlife in their environments and begin to dry up the demand for trafficked goods.”

With these goals in mind, Clinton said, the State Department is pursuing a four-part strategy:

Seeking Global Consensus

Secretary Clinton praised Russia for its commitment to protect wildlife. Trade, transportation and possession of endangered species will all be considered crimes under new legislation proposed by the Kremlin, following discussions with WWF, the conservation charity announced on October 30, 2012. Russia has adopted a Strategy for Tiger Conservation, committing to double the number of wild tigers by 2022 and to stiffen punishment for those caught smuggling tiger products. NGS stock photo of Siberian tiger by Michael Nichols.

“First, on the diplomatic front, the U.S. is working with leaders from around the world to develop a global consensus on wildlife protection. “I spoke with President Putin … when we were together at the APEC summit in Vladivostok.  He has been a staunch, vocal, public supporter of Russian wildlife.  And I think it’s fair to say his personal efforts over the last years have made the lives of tigers in Russia much safer.  There’s still poaching, but at least there is a commitment from the highest level of the Russian Government to protect the wildlife of Russia.  In fact, when I was in Vladivostok, there were posters everywhere with tigers on the pictures on the lampposts and walls and everywhere we looked, reminding people that this was an important issue to Russia and the Russian Government.  And I worked – I had the great privilege of working with President Putin and the other leaders there to make sure that the leaders’ statement that was issued included, for the first time ever, strong language on wildlife trafficking.

“Now, Undersecretaries Bob Hormats and Maria Otero have met with African and Asian leaders to discuss the immediate actions needed to thwart poachers.  Next week, President Obama and I will personally bring this message to our partners in ASEAN and the East Asia Summit when we meet in Phnom Penh.

“We are also pressing forward with efforts to protect marine life.  And last week, we joined forces with New Zealand to propose the world’s largest marine protected area, the Ross Sea region of Antarctica.  And we hope to gain support from the international community as this important proposal moves forward.

“We’re strengthening our ability to engage diplomatically on these and other scientific issues. Building scientific partnerships is an important tool in addressing such global challenges.  That’s why I’m pleased to announce our three new science envoys, Dr. Bernard Amadei of the University of Colorado, the founder of Engineers Without Borders; Dr. Susan Hockfield, the former president and currently faculty member of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology; and renowned evolutionary biologist Dr. Barbara Schaal of Washington University in St. Louis…I think it’s working to create a scientific consensus and very preeminent scientists from across the world speaking out that is one of the important steps that we are urging partners to join with us in doing.”

Enlisting Support of People

“Secondly, we are reaching beyond governments to enlist the support of people.  As part of this effort, Under Secretary Tara Sonenshine, our Under Secretary for Public Diplomacy, is spearheading a global outreach campaign which we will launch December 4th on Wildlife Conservation Day.  Our embassies will use every tool at their disposal to raise awareness about this issue, from honoring local activists, to spreading the word on Facebook and Twitter.  We want to make buying goods, products from trafficked wildlife, endangered species unacceptable, socially unacceptable.  We want friends to tell friends they don’t want friends who ingest, display, or otherwise use products that come from endangered species anywhere in the world.”

Strengthening Enforcement

“Third, we’re launching new initiatives to strengthen and expand enforcement areas.  USAID has already provided more than $24 million over the past five years on a range of programs that combat wildlife crimes.  Last year, they launched the ARREST program, which is establishing regional centers of expertise and expanding training programs for law enforcement.  We really want to work with all of you, and we want both from countries that are victimized by trafficking to countries where consumers are the end-buyers of such products.”

Forming a Global Coalition

“Finally, this is a global issue, and it calls, therefore, for a concerted global response.  So I hope every government and organization here today will join the Coalition Against Wildlife Trafficking.  That is the global partnership for sharing information on poachers and illicit traders.  We’ll also be convening meetings with traditional stakeholders like NGOs and governments and with less traditional stakeholders like air and cruise line companies to discuss new potential partnerships.

“Some of the most successful initiatives we’ve seen so far are the regional wildlife enforcement networks.  These networks are critical to strengthening protection efforts and enhancing cooperation among key countries.  To build on these efforts, today I’m calling for the creation of a global system of regional wildlife enforcement networks to take advantage of those networks that already are operating and the lessons we have learned from them.  The sooner we get this off the ground, the better, and to that end, the State Department is pledging $100,000 to help get this new global system up and running.”

 

“I’m asking the intelligence community to produce an assessment of the impact of large-scale wildlife trafficking on our security interests so we can fully understand what we’re up against.”

 

Illegal wildlife trade is estimated to be a multibillion-dollar business involving the unlawful harvest of and trade in live animals and plants or parts and products derived from them, according to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. “Wildlife is traded as skins, leather goods or souvenirs; as food or traditional medicine; as pets, and in many other forms. Illegal wildlife trade runs the gamut from illegal logging of protected forests to supply the demand for exotic woods, to the illegal fishing of endangered marine life for food, and the poaching of elephants to supply the demand for ivory,” USFWS says on its website. Photo credit: USFWS

“I want to mention one last step we’re taking,” Clinton said.  “Trafficking relies on porous borders, corrupt officials, and strong networks of organized crime, all of which undermine our mutual security.  I’m asking the intelligence community to produce an assessment of the impact of large-scale wildlife trafficking on our security interests so we can fully understand what we’re up against.  When I was in Africa last summer, I was quite alarmed by the level of anxiety I heard from leaders.  It is one thing to be worried about the traditional poachers who come in and kill and take a few animals, a few tusks, a few horns, or other animal parts.  It’s something else when you’ve got helicopters, night vision goggles, automatic weapons, which pose a threat to human life as well as wildlife.  Local communities are becoming terrified.  Local leaders are telling their national leaders that they can lose control of large swaths of territory to these criminal gangs.  Where criminal gangs can come and go at their total discretion, we know that begins to provide safe havens for other sorts of threats to people and governments.”

 

“If you love animals, if you want to see a more secure world, if you want our economy not to be corrupted globally by this kind of illicit behavior, there is so much we can do together.”

 

“We have to look at this in a comprehensive, holistic way,” Clinton said.  “There’s something for everybody.  If you love animals, if you want to see a more secure world, if you want our economy not to be corrupted globally by this kind of illicit behavior, there is so much we can do together.  After all, the world’s wildlife, both on land and in our waters, is such a precious resource, but it is also a limited one.  It cannot be manufactured.  And once it’s gone, it cannot be replenished.  And those who profit from it illegally are not just undermining our borders and our economies. They are truly stealing from the next generation.  So we have to work together to stop them and ensure a sustainable future for our wildlife, the people who live with them, and the people who appreciate them everywhere.”

 

“Wildlife trafficking is among the world’s most lucrative illicit economies, second only to illegal drugs and human trafficking.”

 

Cristián Samper, President and CEO of the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS), moderated a panel at the State Department meeting today. “Illegal trade in wildlife, timber and fisheries is estimated to be fueling illicit economies around the world at approximately $10-15 billion annually.  Wildlife trafficking is among the world’s most lucrative illicit economies, second only to illegal drugs and human trafficking,” Samper said in a WCS news statement after the meeting.

“Populations of many of our most charismatic and best-loved wildlife species across the world are declining precipitously due to wildlife trafficking and the people protecting them are being killed in the line of duty.

“This year alone, 30,000 African elephants will be killed for their ivory.  In February of 2012 alone more than half of the elephants in one national park in northern Cameroon were slaughtered by armed militants from Chad and northern Sudan.  African ecosystems are being disrupted, and tourism, a major source of national revenue, is being undercut.

Shark finning, the practice of removing a shark’s fins at sea and throwing the carcass overboard, is prohibited in U.S. federal waters of the Atlantic and Pacific oceans, the Gulf of Mexico and the Caribbean Sea. Photo of law enforcement agent counting shark fins courtesy of NOAA.

“It is estimated that 448 rhinos were poached last year in South Africa alone, and rhino poaching has extirpated two African subspecies over the last decade.

“Only 3,200 tigers remain in the wild, and of those, probably only 1000 are breeding females.  The recent decline has been fundamentally due to poaching for their body parts.

“More than 25 million sharks are killed each year, more than one third are either endangered or threatened and in the case of hammerhead sharks their population has declined more than 90% since 1970.

“All of these species are declining because they are hunted for the international wildlife trade.  This trade is mostly illegal and highly lucrative and spawns corruption and the breakdown of law and order at both local and national levels. The revenues generated by the sale of wild animals support local insurgencies and terrorist activities and promotes political instability. The wildlife products travel through organized crime networks, especially between Africa and high-end markets in East Asia.

“Smuggling of wildlife across international borders also bypasses quarantine and other health regulations which risk the spread of infectious diseases such as Ebola, SARS, monkey pox and others. These viruses and diseases have the potential of impacting human health including causing death, harm international commerce and disrupt local economies.  We need to protect the source, break the chain and stop demand,” Samper said.

National Geographic Contributing Editor Bryan Christy: Wildlife Trafficking and Conservation Call to Action: Suggestions for Priorities

More information from the U.S. State Department: U.S. Efforts to Combat Wildlife Trafficking and Promote Conservation (Fact Sheet)

 

Full Text of Remarks by Hillary Rodham Clinton, U.S. Secretary of State, at the Partnership Meeting on Wildlife Trafficking:

It’s a great delight to see all of you here.  And as I look out on this audience, I see many familiar faces from the diplomatic community.  And I especially thank each and every one of you for being here on this important issue.

Congressman Moran, thank you for joining us today.  I’d also like to welcome Deputy Administrator Steinberg from USAID, Naoko Ishii of the Global Environmental Facility.  Thanks to Under Secretary Bob Hormats for his commitment to this issue, along with Under Secretary Maria Otero and Under Secretary Tara Sonenshine and Assistant Secretary Kerri-Ann Jones, and many others here in the State Department, and particularly all of you from the conservation and wildlife community and the private sector who have been involved in this issue for many years and have done extraordinary work.  Unfortunately, we now find ourselves with all of that positive effort that started 30, 40 years ago being affected by changes that we have to address at every level of the international community.

Now, some of you might be wondering why a Secretary of State is keynoting an event about wildlife trafficking and conservation, or why we are hosting this event at the State Department in the first place.  Well, I think it’s because, as Bob Hormats has just pointed out, and as the public service announcements reinforce, over the past few years wildlife trafficking has become more organized, more lucrative, more widespread, and more dangerous than ever before.

As the middle class grows, which we all welcome and support, in many nations items like ivory or rhinoceros horn become symbols of wealth and social status.  And so the demand for these goods rises.  By some estimates, the black market in wildlife is rivaled in size only by trade in illegal arms and drugs.  Today, ivory sells for nearly $1,000 per pound.  Rhino horns are literally worth their weight in gold, $30,000 per pound.

What’s more, we are increasingly seeing wildlife trafficking has serious implications for the security and prosperity of people around the world.  Local populations that depend on wildlife, either for tourism or sustenance, are finding it harder and harder to maintain their livelihoods.  Diseases are spreading to new corners of the globe through wildlife that is not properly inspected at border crossings.  Park rangers are being killed.  And we have good reason to believe that rebel militias are players in a worldwide ivory market worth millions and millions of dollars a year.

So yes, I think many of us are here because protecting wildlife is a matter of protecting our planet’s natural beauty.  We see it’s a stewardship responsibility for us and this generation and future generations to come.  But it is also a national security issue, a public health issue, and an economic security issue that is critical to each and every country represented here.

We all, unfortunately, contribute to the continued demand for illegal animal goods.  Wildlife might be targeted and killed across Asia and Africa, but their furs, tusks, bones, and horns are sold all over the world.  Smuggled goods from poached animals find their way to Europe, Australia, China, and the United States.  I regret to say the United States is the second-largest destination market for illegally trafficked wildlife in the world.  And that is something we are going to address.

Now, several conservation groups are here with us today, and we greatly appreciate their invaluable work.  But the truth is they cannot solve this problem alone.  None of us can.  This is a global challenge that spans continents and crosses oceans, and we need to address it with partnerships that are as robust and far-reaching as the criminal networks we seek to dismantle.

Therefore, we need governments, civil society, businesses, scientists, and activists to come together to educate people about the harms of wildlife trafficking.  We need law enforcement personnel to prevent poachers from preying on wildlife.  We need trade experts to track the movement of goods and help enforce existing trade laws.  We need finance experts to study and help undermine the black markets that deal in wildlife.  And most importantly, perhaps, we need to reach individuals, to convince them to make the right choices about the goods they purchase.

Now, there’s no quick fix, but by working closely, internationally, with all of these partners, we can take important steps to protect wildlife in their environments and begin to dry up the demand for trafficked goods.  So with these goals in mind, the State Department is pursuing a four-part strategy.

First, on the diplomatic front, we are working with leaders from around the world to develop a global consensus on wildlife protection.  I spoke with President Putin, Ambassador, when we were together at the APEC summit in Vladivostok.  He has been a staunch, vocal, public supporter of Russian wildlife.  And I think it’s fair to say his personal efforts over the last years have made the lives of tigers in Russia much safer.  There’s still poaching, but at least there is a commitment from the highest level of the Russian Government to protect the wildlife of Russia.  In fact, when I was in Vladivostok, there were posters everywhere with tigers on the pictures on the lampposts and walls and everywhere we looked, reminding people that this was an important issue to Russia and the Russian Government.  And I worked – I had the great privilege of working with President Putin and the other leaders there to make sure that the leaders’ statement that was issued included, for the first time ever, strong language on wildlife trafficking.

Now, Undersecretaries Bob Hormats and Maria Otero have met with African and Asian leaders to discuss the immediate actions needed to thwart poachers.  Next week, President Obama and I will personally bring this message to our partners in ASEAN and the East Asia Summit when we meet in Phnom Penh.

We are also pressing forward with efforts to protect marine life.  And last week, we joined forces with New Zealand to propose the world’s largest marine protected area, the Ross Sea region of Antarctica.  And we hope to gain support from the international community as this important proposal moves forward.

We’re strengthening our ability to engage diplomatically on these and other scientific issues.  Building scientific partnerships is an important tool in addressing such global challenges.  That’s why I’m pleased to announce our three new science envoys, Dr. Bernard Amadei of the University of Colorado, the founder of Engineers Without Borders; Dr. Susan Hockfield, the former president and currently faculty member of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology; and renowned evolutionary biologist Dr. Barbara Schaal of Washington University in St. Louis.  Are these three scientists with us today?  Are they?  Okay.  But I think it’s working to create a scientific consensus and very preeminent scientists from across the world speaking out that is one of the important steps that we are urging partners to join with us in doing.

Secondly, we are reaching beyond governments to enlist the support of people.  As part of this effort, Under Secretary Tara Sonenshine, our Under Secretary for Public Diplomacy, is spearheading a global outreach campaign which we will launch December 4th on Wildlife Conservation Day.  Our embassies will use every tool at their disposal to raise awareness about this issue, from honoring local activists, to spreading the word on Facebook and Twitter.  We want to make buying goods, products from trafficked wildlife, endangered species unacceptable, socially unacceptable.  We want friends to tell friends they don’t want friends who ingest, display, or otherwise use products that come from endangered species anywhere in the world.

Third, we’re launching new initiatives to strengthen and expand enforcement areas.  USAID has already provided more than $24 million over the past five years on a range of programs that combat wildlife crimes.  Last year, they launched the ARREST program, which is establishing regional centers of expertise and expanding training programs for law enforcement.  We really want to work with all of you, and we want both from countries that are victimized by trafficking to countries where consumers are the end-buyers of such products.

Finally, this is a global issue, and it calls, therefore, for a concerted global response.  So I hope every government and organization here today will join the Coalition Against Wildlife Trafficking.  That is the global partnership for sharing information on poachers and illicit traders.  We’ll also be convening meetings with traditional stakeholders like NGOs and governments and with less traditional stakeholders like air and cruise line companies to discuss new potential partnerships.

Some of the most successful initiatives we’ve seen so far are the regional wildlife enforcement networks.  These networks are critical to strengthening protection efforts and enhancing cooperation among key countries.  To build on these efforts, today I’m calling for the creation of a global system of regional wildlife enforcement networks to take advantage of those networks that already are operating and the lessons we have learned from them.  The sooner we get this off the ground, the better, and to that end, the State Department is pledging $100,000 to help get this new global system up and running.

I want to mention one last step we’re taking.  Trafficking relies on porous borders, corrupt officials, and strong networks of organized crime, all of which undermine our mutual security.  I’m asking the intelligence community to produce an assessment of the impact of large-scale wildlife trafficking on our security interests so we can fully understand what we’re up against.  When I was in Africa last summer, I was quite alarmed by the level of anxiety I heard from leaders.  It is one thing to be worried about the traditional poachers who come in and kill and take a few animals, a few tusks, a few horns, or other animal parts.  It’s something else when you’ve got helicopters, night vision goggles, automatic weapons, which pose a threat to human life as well as wildlife.  Local communities are becoming terrified.  Local leaders are telling their national leaders that they can lose control of large swaths of territory to these criminal gangs.  Where criminal gangs can come and go at their total discretion, we know that begins to provide safe havens for other sorts of threats to people and governments.

So I think we have to look at this in a comprehensive, holistic way.  And there’s something for everybody.  If you love animals, if you want to see a more secure world, if you want our economy not to be corrupted globally by this kind of illicit behavior, there is so much we can do together.  After all, the world’s wildlife, both on land and in our waters, is such a precious resource, but it is also a limited one.  It cannot be manufactured.  And once it’s gone, it cannot be replenished.  And those who profit from it illegally are not just undermining our borders and our economies. They are truly stealing from the next generation.  So we have to work together to stop them and ensure a sustainable future for our wildlife, the people who live with them, and the people who appreciate them everywhere.

So let me thank you all for being here.  I really appreciate the turnout, and it means a great deal and the fact that so many ambassadors are here representing their countries – and I particularly want to thank our colleagues, the Ambassador of Kenya, the Ambassador from Indonesia, for taking a leading role in this effort.  We want to hear your ideas.  These are our ideas, but we really are soliciting your ideas – what works, what can we do better, how can we make a difference.  Let’s put the poachers out of business and build a more secure and prosperous world for all of us, and particularly for children generations to come.

12418031_10153900711084116_8462971761216697621_nDavid Braun is director of outreach with the digital and social media team illuminating the National Geographic Society’s explorer, science, and education programs.

He edits National Geographic Voices, hosting a global discussion on issues resonating with the Society’s mission and major initiatives. Contributors include grantees and Society partners, as well as universities, foundations, interest groups, and individuals dedicated to a sustainable world. More than 50,000 readers have participated in 10,000 conversations.

Braun also directs the Society side of the Fulbright-National Geographic Digital Storytelling Fellowship

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Forty years in U.S., UK, and South African media gives David Braun global perspective and experience across multiple storytelling platforms. His coverage of science, nature, politics, and technology has been published/broadcast by the BBC, CNN, NPR, AP, UPI, National Geographic, TechWeb, De Telegraaf, Travel World, and Argus South African Newspapers. He has published two books and won several journalism awards. He has 120,000 followers on social media. David Braun edits the National Geographic Society blog, hosting a global discussion on issues resonating with the Society's mission and initiatives. He also directs the Society side of the Fulbright-National Geographic Digital Storytelling Fellowship, awarded to Americans seeking the opportunity to spend nine months abroad, engaging local communities and sharing stories from the field with a global audience. Follow David on Facebook  Twitter  LinkedIn