Press Release: US State Department
RemarksRobert D. Hormats
Under Secretary for Economic Growth, Energy, and the Environment
University of Pretoria Wildlife Trafficking Roundtable
Pretoria, South Africa
May 7, 2013
Thank you for the kind introduction. I would also like to thank the University of Pretoria Center for Wildlife Management and the Mammal Research Institute for hosting us today. I am honored to share this panel with Mr. Fundesile Mketeni from the Department of Environmental Affairs and Dr. Mike Knight of the IUCN, both experts in the field and deeply involved in fighting the horrible scourge of rhino poaching happening in South Africa. And, I welcome Julian Rademeyer as our moderator. His knowledge of the situation and criminal networks will guide us in a meaningful discussion today.
The U.S. Department of State has long considered wildlife trafficking to be a critical conservation issue. However, wildlife trafficking and poaching have exploded in the past several years into a large-scale, commercial illicit enterprise with increasing involvement by transnational criminal groups. This trend has made wildlife crime a particularly high priority for me. Moreover, ending wildlife trafficking is a high priority for me personally because I lived in East Africa for a year. I spent several months as an assistant game guide in the region’s majestic parks. I also visited Kruger National Park in South Africa and Etosha National Park in Namibia. I saw many of Africa’s animals up close and personal and came to love and admire them.
During my visit to southern Africa last year with Secretary Clinton, we heard firsthand of the devastation the brutal poachers are causing for the populations of these majestic animals, and the communities which depend on them. Communities suffer when their wildlife is slaughtered and stolen, both economically and personally. From the rising numbers of rangers and eco-guards murdered from Kenya to Cameroon, and across the continent, we see that the toll of poaching and trafficking is not counted in the horrible slaughter of animal lives alone. The insecurity spread by lawless, armed poachers—criminal syndicates and gangs—crossing national borders with impunity adds risk to daily life and prevents these communities from developing sustainable means of economic prosperity. Very few companies are willing to invest in a place where physical security is virtually non-existent, and tourists that would otherwise come and pay to view wildlife roaming freely likewise will spend their money in safer places. More....