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Wildlife Crime Escalating in Scale and Sophistication

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Addressing the rise of wildlife slaughter and trafficking around the world, the United States of America today reported that wildlife crime is escalating in scale and sophistication.

In his remarks today at a symposium at Washington DC, Under Secretary Robert D. Hormats says the issue of the illegal slaughter and trafficking in wildlife is one that has personally captivated and increasingly enraged me.

"Our aims are: to raise the profile and political will to address wildlife slaughter and trafficking, to raise awareness through our public diplomacy efforts, to enhance enforcement and training action, and to develop strategic partnerships to eliminate wildlife slaughter and trafficking and the criminality it represents." -Mr. Hormats

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Men with ivory tusks from the African Elephant, Dar Es Salaam, Tanzania. Photo: Wikimedia Commons
Mr. Hormats reports that wildlife slaughter and trafficking nowadays is more organized, more lucrative, and more dangerous than ever before.

According to Mr. Hormats, CITES reports three of the five largest annual ivory seizures on record were 2011, 2010, and 2009. Additionally 2012 does not look better, he added.

The world has seen single incidents where hundreds of elephant are slaughtered at a time, Mr. Hormats said.

In addition, the situation for rhinos is also exceedingly grim, he added.

"This has to stop. Massive poaching is compromising the future of some of these species and the associated ecosystems." -Mr. Hormats

He notes that it is also quite likely a source of financing for transnational criminal networks, and possibly even terrorist groups.

This undermines the stability, security, and economic opportunities for communities in many countries around the world, he underlined.

"These in turn undermine the ability to govern in nascent democracies or fragile states." -Mr. Hormats

Mr. Hormats cites many other African countries are dealing with major slaughter and border incursions as well.

Many are having to militarize their national parks in order to defend these animals and maintain control over these vast lands, he added.

According to Mr. Hormats, the poachers have access to more sophisticated tools, like night-vision goggles, AK-47s, and helicopters, leaving park rangers often outmanned and outgunned.

There have been retaliatory killings of park rangers for protecting these animals as well, he added.

In addition, upwards of one hundred park rangers are killed annually, he reported.

He adds that with the prices for elephant ivory and rhino horn soaring, the financial incentive to commit these crimes is growing.

The high prices in turn fuel the engine of corruption that keeps the illegal enterprise thriving, he stressed.

To address this issues about wildlife, the United States has developed the "Conservation Matters" Strategy at the State Department, which lays out a four pronged approach.

First, the US is working to raise the level of political attention and political will to combat wildlife slaughter and trafficking through our diplomatic engagement in multilateral and in bilateral relationships.

"Our second goal is to raise public awareness." -Mr. Hormats

To further public awareness, the US has designated December 4 as "Wildlife Conservation Day."

The third goal is to strengthen law enforcement capacity through training, Mr. Hormats stated.

The US provides multilateral, regional law enforcement training through the International Law Enforcement Academy (ILEA) in Gabarone and Bangkok.

Fourth, the US supports the expansion and strengthening of existing partnerships, such as the Coalition Against Wildlife Trafficking (CAWT), to engage governments, civil society, and the private sector to combat wildlife crime.

"For me, protecting wildlife is a very personal issue and a deeply moral issue." -Mr. Hormats

Mr. Hormats underlines that collectively, all share a moral and political responsibility to protect the worlds' wildlife, to be good stewards of the planet, and to support the development and security of countries suffering from wildlife slaughter and trafficking.

Earlier this month, noting that wildlife trafficking has become more organized, more lucrative, more widespread, and more dangerous than ever before, the United States of America ahs revealed its approaches to combat wildlife trafficking.

The black market in wildlife is rivaled in size only by trade in illegal arms and drugs.

The world is increasingly seeing wildlife trafficking has serious implications for the security and prosperity of people around the world, she noted.

Local populations that depend on wildlife, either for tourism or sustenance, are finding it harder and harder to maintain their livelihoods, she stressed.

Ms. Clinton says park rangers are being killed. And we have good reason to believe that rebel militias are players in a worldwide ivory market worth millions and millions of dollars a year.

Wildlife might be targeted and killed across Asia and Africa, but their furs, tusks, bones, and horns are sold all over the world.

The US joined forces with New Zealand to propose the world's largest marine protected area, the Ross Sea region of Antarctica.

In addition, the US is strengthening its ability to engage diplomatically on these and other scientific issues.

As part of this effort, Under Secretary Tara Sonenshine, Under Secretary for Public Diplomacy, is spearheading a global outreach campaign which we will launch December 4th on Wildlife Conservation Day.

US embassies will use every tool at their disposal to raise awareness about this issue, from honoring local activists, to spreading the word on Facebook and Twitter, Ms. Clinton added.

Third, the US is launching new initiatives to strengthen and expand enforcement areas.

USAID has already provided more than $24 million over the past five years on a range of programs that combat wildlife crimes.

In 2011, the USAID launched the ARREST program, which is establishing regional centers of expertise and expanding training programs for law enforcement.

The US is also calling for the creation of a global system of regional wildlife enforcement networks to take advantage of those networks that already are operating.

The State Department is pledging $100,000 to help get this new global system up and running.

The US is now asking the intelligence community to produce an assessment of the impact of large-scale wildlife trafficking on US security interests so they can fully understand what they are up against.

Organized crime syndicates using sophisticated smuggling operations have penetrated even previously secure wildlife populations. Some of the elaborate methods include: hidden compartments in shipping containers; rapidly changing of smuggling routes; and the use of e-commerce whose locations are difficult to detect.

Mina Fabulous follows the news, especially what is going on in the US State Department. Mina turns State Department waffle into plain english. Read more stories by Mina Fabulous. Contact Mina through NewsBlaze.

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