President Obama’s fight to combat wildlife trafficking

Fauna & Flora International (FFI) applauds a new initiative launched by US President Barack Obama against wildlife trafficking, using his executive authority to take action against the illegal trade. The Presidential Task Force on Wildlife Trafficking will devise a national strategy over the next six months, aimed at combating illegal wildlife trafficking and poaching of endangered species.

This announcement comes with the much needed infusion of resources—both in terms of government cooperation and financial—intended to stall the escalating scales of poaching of endangered species. According to The White House, the US State Department will provide $US10 million (£GBP6.5 million) in training and technical assistance to combat poaching in Africa. Three million dollars will go to South Africa, $3 million to Kenya and $4 million elsewhere in sub-Saharan Africa.

Nav Dayanand, Managing Director of FFI in the United States said, “President Obama’s announcement demonstrates the effects wildlife trade and trafficking is having on our planet and its inhabitants, forcing many species into extinction. The development of this task force escalates the importance of combating wildlife related crime, putting it front and centre on the world stage, showing that which is of national interest also has global impact.”

A statement released by The White House said, “The poaching of protected species and the illegal trade in wildlife and their derivative parts and products represent an international crisis that continues to escalate. Poaching operations have expanded beyond small-scale, opportunistic actions to coordinated slaughter commissioned by armed and organised criminal syndicates.”

Species including elephants, rhinos, primates, tigers, sharks, tuna and turtles are being hunted in developing countries to sell to wealthier countries  – a practice estimated by conservation organisations to turn over up to $US10 billion per year. Consequently, illegal wildlife trade has become a major illicit transnational activity on a par financially with drugs, arms and human trafficking.

FFI works in effective partnership with hundreds of organisations worldwide. These collaborations have helped to mitigate poaching threats to many wildlife species, contributing to the conservation of critical habitats globally. For example, in Ol Pejeta Conservancy in Kenya, which has over one hundred black and white rhinos, effective law enforcement and park guard management have resulted in poaching levels being close to zero in the past couple of years.

FFI welcomes The White House’s engagement calling for a comprehensive approach to address this global crisis which involves curbing the supply of and demand for illegal wildlife and wildlife products.