US to Destroy Ivory Stockpile, Among Quick Steps to Combat Wildlife Trafficking

In July, President Obama issued an Executive Order to help stop trafficking and poaching of wildlife, which is crashing populations of elephants, rhinos, great apes, tigers, sharks, tuna and turtles.

One element of the Executive Order is to create a federal council on wildlife trafficking, and Secretary of Interior  Sally Jewell announced its formation this week.

Announced during a Forum to Counter Wildlife Trafficking held at the White House, the council is tasked with developing a national strategy to work with international groups and governments to crackdown on trafficking.

Obama also requested that a number of government agencies work together on the issue: Treasury, Defense, Homeland Security, the Office of the Director of National Intelligence and the National Security Council. 

Secretary Jewell announced the government will crush its stockpile of six tons of ivory that’s been seized over the years. It will be destroyed on October 8. That eliminates opportunities for corruption and ensures the ivory won’t find its way to the black market. African and Asian countries are encouraged to do the same.

Elephant Tusks

The government is also reviewing existing regulations and policies and will soon propose changes that close loopholes through which criminals currently smuggle wildlife products into the US, violating US and international law.

The US will also step up efforts to train game officers, customs officials and police across Africa, Latin America and Asia, and will provide equipment, logistical and technical support to build capacity to combat trafficking and poaching in key countries.

"This is shocking to me – wildlife trafficking has doubled since 2007, and is now estimated to be the fourth largest transnational crime in the world," Jewell said at the Forum. A Rhino horn is now worth twice its weight in gold, she says, and the US and Asia are among the biggest buyers of illegal wildlife products.

"Rising demand for ivory is fueling a renewed and horrific slaughter of elephants in Africa, threatening remaining populations across the continent," says Jewell. "We will continue to work aggressively with the Departments of Justice and State, as well as with international law enforcement agencies, to disrupt and prosecute criminals who traffic in ivory, and we encourage other nations to join us in that effort."

"This crisis is not like anything that we have dealt with," Dan Ashe, director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, which is overseeing the initiatives, told Reuters. "It’s syndicated, it’s well-organized, it’s well-funded – and it needs a whole government approach."

"The United States is part of the problem," he says, "because much of the world’s trade in wild animal and plant species – both legal and illegal – is driven by U.S. consumers or passes through our ports on the way to other nations."

In his Executive Order, Obama appropriated $10 million for US agencies to improve wildlife protection in key African countries. And he asked that wildlife trafficking be elevated to the same level as arms, drugs and human trafficking in US federal government’s official strategy.

That too is being enacted with Jewell’s announcement that wildlife trafficking is now part of official US strategy to combat transnational organized crime. This means it will get more resources to help dismantle the criminal organizations that drive poaching across Africa. Terrorists and armed militants use ivory sales to finance their operations and fuel the organized illegal drug and arms trades.

"We are being outgunned right now by these criminal syndicates," Carter Roberts, president of World Wildlife Fund said at the Forum, reports Reuters. "They have night vision goggles, they have helicopters, they lots of sophisticated arms. One of the keys tools at our disposal is going to be technology and inventing new ways to catch the bad guys before it’s too late."

The World Wildlife Fund and other nonprofits are now using drones to deter and find poachers before they kill animals.

How You Can Help

When you purchase "Save Vanishing Species" postal stamps at your local post office or online, those sales support this effort. 
The stamps have raised nearly $2.4 million since 2011. 

The money goes to the US Fish and Wildlife Service’s Wildlife Without Borders Multinational Species Conservation Funds. Over the next few weeks, some 171 projects will receive matching funds that benefit elephants, rhinos, tigers and great apes – adding up to over $20 million.

You can buy stamps here:

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Comments on “US to Destroy Ivory Stockpile, Among Quick Steps to Combat Wildlife Trafficking”

  1. l terry gibson

    why don’t we remove all the ivory and rino horns and replace with orange super plastic, leaving living animals with satisfactory animal tools


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