In response to an ongoing poaching crisis that is dramatically reducing wild rhinoceros populations worldwide, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) is taking immediate action to protect the southern white rhinoceros under the Endangered Species Act (ESA). The ESA provides a critical safety net for fish, wildlife and plants and has prevented the extinction of hundreds of imperiled species, as well as promoting the recovery of many others.
By extending ESA protection to the white rhino -- the last remaining unprotected species of rhinoceros -- USFWS is closing a loophole that has been exploited by unscrupulous poachers and traffickers seeking to cash in on global demand for rhino horn.
The action, announced September 9 by Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell at the White House Forum to Combat Wildlife Trafficking, will protect the southern white rhinoceros as a threatened species under the ESA's "similarity of appearance" provisions and will aid international law enforcement efforts to fight poaching and crack down on trafficking in rhino horn. USFWS will accept public comments for 30 days on this interim final rule, although ESA protections will begin immediately, the agency said.
"As both a transit point and consumer destination for illegal rhino horn products, the United States plays a vital role in curbing poaching and wildlife trafficking. Along with extending protection to the southern white rhino, we're evaluating additional regulatory and policy options in an effort to strengthen our ability to investigate and prosecute poachers and traffickers," said USFWS Director Dan Ashe in a posting on the agency website. "We have a long history in working to curb the illegal wildlife trade, and are committed to working with international law enforcement agencies to address current and emerging challenges." More....