U.S. ACTS AGAINST POACHERS

by Editor on February 11, 2015

A Critically Endangered Sumatran Rhinoceros. Photo: Willem V. Strien

A Critically Endangered Sumatran Rhinoceros. Photo: Willem V. Strien

The Obama Administration Announces New Action Against Illegal Traffickers In Wildlife

The Obama Administration announced February 11 that it was taking new action to protect endangered species and other wildlife currently being decimated by growing and increasingly powerful international networks of illegal wildlife traffickers. Poachers and traffickers are destroying populations of elephants, rhinos, tigers, gibbons, pangolins, and many other species of birds, reptiles, and mammals in order reap huge profits by satisfying demand for wild animal parts and products in Asia, the U.S., and other illegal markets. Poaching and wildlife trafficking have become the main factor driving many species toward extinction.

According to a report published in The New York Times, U.S. actions will include using American intelligence agencies to track the operations of international criminals involved in trafficking, an activity estimated to generate $20 Billion in black-market profits each year. For the first time, U.S. agents will be dispatched to other countries in the fight against trafficking. In addition, the U.S. will put diplomatic pressure on the governments of countries where illegal wildlife products are sold. The Administration also plans action to curb U.S. imports of banned products. By some estimates, the U.S. is the second largest consumer after China of illegal wildlife and wildlife products.

Unfortunately, the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service and other American law enforcement agencies are likely to remain deeply underfunded in the struggle against what President Obama has called “an international crisis.” The government is backing its new efforts with only a “modest” increase in funding. Meanwhile, wildlife officials report that staffing is inadequate, and the number of wildlife-trafficking investigations has actually declined over the past several that years.

Meanwhile, prices for endangered species continue to climb. Rhinoceros horn brings up to $30,000 a pound on the illegal market, a tiger carcass can fetch $50,000, and elephant ivory sells for around $3,000 a pound. Rhino horn and tiger body parts are used to make exotic Asian folk medicines, and ivory is used to carve jewelry, artwork, and trinkets.

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