By Kate Bissell
The White House released a National Strategy for Combating Wildlife Trafficking last week in an effort to address the increase in illegal wildlife trade, which threatens wildlife conservation and global security.
The U.S. is one of the world’s largest markets for both legal and illegal wildlife and wildlife products. Furthermore, there has been an increasing demand for elephant ivory and rhinoceros horns, mainly from buyers in Asia, where these products are considered highly desirable by a burgeoning middle class as high value gifts and aphrodisiacs, among other uses. The national strategy seeks to address these and other issues by acting as a guiding document to direct U.S. federal agencies to share information and resources to address the problem of illegal wildlife trade, which is purported to bring in over $19 billion per year to international crime syndicates.
Further, the strategy aims to reduce illegal trade in wildlife not only in the U.S., but around the world by focusing on three main priorities: strengthening enforcement, reducing demand for illegally traded wildlife, and expanding international cooperation and commitment.
The strategy also directs the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) to immediately ban commercial import and export of African elephant ivory, with limited exceptions. Furthermore, the strategy will restore Endangered Species Act protections for African elephants that the FWS had previously revoked by a special rule (50 CFR 17.40(e)).
Sources: National Strategy for Combating Wildlife Trafficking (February, 2014), White House Wildlife Trafficking Fact Sheet (February, 2014), Energy and Environment Daily (February 11, 2014), The Huffington Post (accessed February, 2014)