A group of bipartisan leaders from the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and House Foreign Affairs Committee have sent a letter to Secretary of State John Kerry, Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell, and Attorney General Eric Holder urging the full use of available government resources to comprehensively combat wildlife trafficking. The letter was signed by Senate Foreign Relations Subcommittee on African Affairs Chairman Chris Coons (D-Del.) and Subcommittee on East Asian and Pacific Affairs Chairman Ben Cardin (D-Md.), and House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Ed Royce (R-Calif.) and Subcommittee on Asia and the Pacific Chairman Steve Chabot (R-Ohio).
“We are writing to ensure that the National Strategy the Task Force produces is bold, goal-oriented and implemented through a whole-of-government approach,” the members wrote. “We believe for the National Strategy to be effective it must include elements to dismantle illicit transnational networks, incorporate security and intelligence resources, and ensure local security forces have the capacity to combat poaching.”
Secretaries Kerry and Jewell, and Attorney General Holder are co-chairs of the Presidential Task Force on Wildlife Trafficking, established by President Obama in July to develop a national strategy for addressing the growing problem of illicit wildlife trafficking. The task force, along with an Advisory Council made up of non-governmental experts, is working to enhance coordination among existing U.S. programs and policies to combat wildlife trafficking, and assist other nations to do the same. The national strategy is expected to be released in early 2014.
Driven primarily by consumer demand in Asia, poaching of elephants, rhinos, and other wildlife across the globe has reached unprecedented levels in recent years. The crisis is particularly acute in Central Africa, where heavily armed poachers have decimated elephant populations, and in South Africa, which houses the continent’s largest proportion of rhinos. Profits from the multi-billion dollar wildlife trade are frequently funneled to transnational crime syndicates, whose activities threaten to disrupt the rule of law in developing countries across the globe.
To combat these illicit networks, the members emphasized that U.S strategy must “identify steps to build capacity of law enforcement systems in key countries, including the training and equipping of government eco-guards and rangers, and use of technological innovations.” “To ensure effectiveness,” the members wrote, “programs must include methods to aggressively deal with the pervasive corruption that prevents effective wildlife law enforcement in many countries. Another portion of the strategy should focus on building prosecutorial, judicial and investigative capacity to prosecute wildlife crime cases more effectively.”
The text of the letter....can be downloaded as a PDF here: http://1.usa.gov/1bdssQZ