Last night, the U.S. House of Representatives took an important step toward curbing the illegal killing and trafficking of wildlife when it passed the Global Anti-Poaching Act (H.R. 2494). This bipartisan legislation, led by House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Ed Royce, R-Calif., and Ranking Member Eliot Engel, D-N.Y., provides tools and resources necessary to combat poaching activities that threaten some of the world’s most iconic species with extinction. We applaud the passage of this bill in the House and we urge the Senate to take action quickly, too – approving the House-passed bill or a related measure introduced by Senators Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., and Lindsey Graham, R-S.C.
The wildlife trafficking issue has so many facets, not only because it has dire consequences for imperiled animals, but because it also affects global security. Illegal wildlife trafficking is extremely lucrative, netting billions of dollars annually, and has become a key source of revenue for organized crime syndicates, rebel groups, and terrorist organizations. The Global Anti-Poaching Act will help the United States and partner countries counter the criminals who are profiting from poaching and the international wildlife trade. The bill would give law enforcement agencies better tools to go after the worst offenders by making wildlife trafficking violations (where the products involved have a total value of more than $10,000) predicate offenses under the Travel Act, Money Laundering, and RICO statutes. The Global Anti-Poaching Act would carry higher penalties for engaging in serious wildlife crimes, and help to disrupt the global criminal networks that rely on ivory, rhino horn, and other trafficked wildlife to fund their nefarious operations. The bill would also authorize the President to provide security assistance to African countries for counter-wildlife-trafficking efforts, and pressure countries that are failing in their commitment to end wildlife trafficking to step up their efforts.
Since 2013, when President Obama issued an Executive Order to combat wildlife trafficking, we have seen multi-agency and multinational efforts by governments to address the global poaching and trafficking crisis. While in Kenya this past summer, the President announced new measures to stem the illegal ivory trade here in the United States. Our country is the second largest market for ivory products in the world after China, so we have a key role to play in encouraging responsible policies toward wildlife trafficking – both within our borders and as a global conservation leader. The President’s announcement, and the release of a proposed rule by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service that followed, were significant not only for the United States, but also for the rest of the world. On September 25th, President Obama and the President of China reached an agreement to take action in both countries to crack down on the ivory trade, so it is all the more essential that the U.S. step up, as a way of reinforcing China’s commitments.
States and local governments also play a necessary role in this global crisis. Just yesterday, I blogged on a ballot initiative in Washington, I-1401, aimed at addressing wildlife trafficking at the state level, and that election ends today (I’ll be posting results on my Facebook page starting tonight at 11 p.m. ET). We have launched a similar initiative in Oregon, and just submitted a first round of signatures yesterday. These two initiatives seek to build on policies enacted by lawmakers in California, New Jersey, and New York.
The HSUS is proud to be front and center on efforts to end the killing and trade in wildlife and we applaud our leaders in Congress, state legislatures, the federal government, and philanthropists such as Paul Allen for championing this fight. When it comes to these species, it is an existential fight. And for so many nations in Africa and Asia, it’s also about preserving the future of their economies, since these terrestrial and marine species are the greatest of their natural resources and bulwarks of their economies. There’s so much at risk, and that’s why it’s essential that we invest in this fight and play to win.