wildlife trafficking undermines collective security and prosperity
Saying that trafficking in wildlife is not a benign activity and is a criminal threat that requires a criminal justice response, the United States of America today outlined its efforts to combat illegal wildlife trafficking.
In his remarks at HRH Illegal Wildlife Trafficking Meeting in London, Director David M. Luna for Anticrime Programs, Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs says the Department of State has been engaged on the diplomatic front to raise the profile of wildlife trafficking as a criminal concern in bilateral and multilateral fora including: APEC, ASEAN, East Asia Summit, U.S.-China Joint Liaison Group on Law Enforcement Cooperation, and the G8 Roma-Lyon Group.
US is also developing innovative public-private cooperation through cooperative platforms at the OECD and the World Economic Forum to combat illicit trade including wildlife trafficking, human trafficking, counterfeit medicines, narcotics, and other emerging threats.
In addition, the Department of State has also provided regional law enforcement training targeting supply and demand regions for wildlife trafficking at the International Law Enforcement Academies in Gaborone and Bangkok.
US places wildlife trafficking within the context of its broader goals of combating corruption.
Aside from corruption, wildlife trafficking is placed in the context of US broder goals to dismantling transnational organized criminal networks, and promoting the rule of law.
“We can leverage our respective political will and capabilities to enforce our laws, prosecute wildlife traffickers, and repel poachers before a slaughter, and punish illicit actors whose criminal intent is to pillage, profit from, and destroy our ecosystems, habitats, and communities.” – Mr. Luna
The US believes the experience of the regional Wildlife Enforcement Networks holds promise for a concerted effort to strengthen enforcement and prosecution.
These networks are linking law enforcement and environment officials, prosecutors, and policy makers and supported by donors and NGOs combat wildlife trafficking through training, capacity-building, and information exchange, he highlighted.
In addition, USAID has invested $17 million since 2005 to support ASEAN-WEN’s and South Asia WEN’s efforts to combat illegal wildlife trafficking through the initial ASEAN-WEN Support Program, the current ARREST Program, and INTERPOL’s Project PREDATOR.
According to Mr. Luna, the United States has provided more than $7 million since 2005 to support wildlife conservation in Central America and the Dominican Republic, including funding for the Central American Wildlife Enforcement Network (CAWEN).
He notes the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service provides $10 million annually for wildlife protection throughout Africa and Asia targeting elephants, rhinos, great apes, and marine turtles.
Funds are used to prevent poaching and to improve investigation and prosecution of wildlife crimes, he said.
US strengthens partnership to boost efforts to address the wildlife trafficking
The US continues to work to strengthen existing partnerships and build support for a global system of regional wildlife enforcement networks (WENs) to improve enforcement effectiveness, coordination, and cooperation.
He cites that in March 2013, the Department of State sponsored the first meeting to convene all the existing WENs, plus countries that may create WENs in their regions, on the margins of the CITES Conference of Parties-16 held in Bangkok, Thailand.
The US has actively supported the development of new regional WENs in Central Africa and the Horn of Africa to share cross-border information and to conduct exchanges.
“Staying ahead of these illicit networks will take a global effort, with all of us working collaboratively across sectors, governments, and organizations.” – Mr. Luna
Collective action crucial to counter wildlife trafficking
Mr. Luna underlines that through collective action and a multi-sector approach, US and its partners can constrict the global illegal economy, downgrade the threat posed by poachers, and help communities nurture transformative and sustainable markets, moving their economies into the investment frontiers of tomorrow and safeguarding their human capital, national assets, and natural resources.
The US is also committed to helping its partners fight back and prevent greater insecurity and destabilization.
He says they have taken a comprehensive approach to this issue; not only for the purpose of conservation, but also from a security perspective that requires a strengthened law enforcement and criminal justice response.
According to Mr. Luna, in April 2013, the UN Crime Commission adopted a resolution introduced by the United States and Peru entitled, “Crime prevention and criminal justice responses for illicit trafficking in protected species of wild fauna and flora.”
He explains this resolution advocates for a comprehensive approach to combat wildlife trafficking, notably by encouraging member states to designate wildlife trafficking as a “serious” crime, thereby unlocking the ability of governments to utilize the international cooperation tools contained within the UN Convention against Transnational Organized Crime.
“We also applaud the UK as G8 host this year and welcome the efforts of the G8 Roma-Lyon Group to address wildlife trafficking.” – Mr. Luna
In addition, the United States stands ready to work with our partners both bilaterally and multilaterally, with civil society and the private sector, to combat these threats.
“We must be bold, decisive, and fight networks with our own networks.” – Mr. Luna
Trafficking in wildlife is not a benign activity.
US considers wildlife trafficking, like other forms of illicit trade, relies on porous borders, corrupt officials, and organized criminal networks, all of which undermine collective security and prosperity.
“Trafficking in wildlife is not a benign activity. It is a criminal threat that requires a criminal justice response.” – Mr. Luna
He says time is the enemy as they work to save endangered wildlife and world heritage.
The world is witnessing the involvement of dangerous criminals in what used to be considered a conservation issue.
Mr. Luna reports that by some conservative estimates, the illegal trade in wildlife is worth $8-10 billion each year.
Traffickers are drawn to the high profit potential and low risk of detection and prosecution, he pointed out.
Park rangers are frequently outmatched by well-equipped poachers as well.
In fact many park rangers have been killed while trying to protect their parks and the wildlife that roam freely in them.
US Reveals Approaches to Combat Wildlife Trafficking
Noting that wildlife trafficking has become more organized, more lucrative, more widespread, and more dangerous than ever before, the United States of America revealed its approaches to combat wildlife trafficking.
The black market in wildlife is rivaled in size only by trade in illegal arms and drugs.
Today, ivory sells for nearly $1,000 per pound. Rhino horns are literally worth their weight in gold, $30,000 per pound.
US reports that world is increasingly seeing wildlife trafficking has serious implications for the security and prosperity of people around the world.
Local populations that depend on wildlife, either for tourism or sustenance, are finding it harder and harder to maintain their livelihoods.
Wildlife trafficking is also a national security issue
Wildlife might be targeted and killed across Asia and Africa, but their furs, tusks, bones, and horns are sold all over the world.
Smuggled goods from poached animals find their way to Europe, Australia, China, and the United States.
The United States is the second-largest destination market for illegally trafficked wildlife in the world.
How US addresses this issue
To address the issue of wildlife trafficking, the US government is working with leaders from around the world to develop a global consensus on wildlife protection.
Undersecretaries Bob Hormats and Maria Otero have met with African and Asian leaders to discuss the immediate actions needed to thwart poachers.
In addition, the US is strengthening its ability to engage diplomatically on these and other scientific issues.
US asserts that building scientific partnerships is an important tool in addressing such global challenges.
Secondly, the US is reaching beyond governments to enlist the support of people.
As part of this effort, Under Secretary Tara Sonenshine, Under Secretary for Public Diplomacy, is spearheading a global outreach campaign which launched December 2012 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.
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.
In addition, the US is calling for the creation of a global system of regional wildlife enforcement networks to take advantage of those networks that already are operating.
US announced that the State Department is pledging $100,000 to help get this new global system up and running.
Reports say that an immense, increasingly sophisticated illegal trade in wildlife parts conducted by organized crime, coupled with antiquated enforcement methods, are decimating the world’s most beloved species including rhinos, tigers, and elephants on a scale never before seen.
Much of the trade is reportedly driven by wealthy East Asian markets that have a seemingly insatiable appetite for wildlife parts.
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.