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On December 10, Senator Chris Coons (D-Del.) and Senator Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) introduced a bipartisan bill aimed at combating wildlife trafficking through a “whole of government” approach to tackling the multi-billion dollar illicit industry. The introduction of the Senate bill, called the END Wildlife Trafficking Act, complements the recent introduction of a similar bill, the Global Anti-Poaching Act, in the U.S. House of Representatives.

African Wildlife Foundation fully supported the introduction of both the Senate and House bills, noting that they send “a clear message that the U.S. government is serious about putting an end to poaching and the illegal trade in wildlife parts, and that the conservation community is not alone in waging this battle.”

Please find below more information about the END Wildlife Trafficking Act from a press release distributed by the office of Senator Chris Coons:

Poachers target elephants for their ivory tusks, which are shipped to markets in Asia and fashioned into jewelry, statues and fine art. (Photo credit: Billy Dodson / African Wildlife Foundation)

Poachers target elephants for their ivory tusks, which are shipped to markets in Asia and fashioned into jewelry, statues and fine art. (Photo credit: Billy Dodson / African Wildlife Foundation)

Senators Coons, Flake introduce bipartisan bill to combat growing wildlife trafficking crisis

Wildlife trafficking is a lucrative criminal activity with an estimated value of $8 to $10 billion annually

Bipartisan bill takes an interagency approach, focuses on country-specific solutions

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senators Chris Coons (D-Del.) and Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) introduced legislation today to combat the rapidly growing crisis of wildlife trafficking by facilitating a strategic interagency approach, with a focus on country-specific and regional initiatives. The END Wildlife Trafficking Act supports the ongoing work of the Presidential Task Force on Combating Wildlife Trafficking and directs the Task Force to analyze threats to wildlife and cooperatively develop country-specific strategic plans to combat those threats.

The END Wildlife Trafficking Act recognizes that wildlife trafficking is no longer only a conservation issue, but has rapidly escalated in scale, sophistication, and violence to threaten stability and security in multiple countries, and impact U.S. national security as well.  Wildlife trafficking has also been linked to other transnational organized criminal activities, including trafficking in narcotics, weapons, and humans. This scale of poaching poses a dire threat to the very survival of some of the world’s most iconic wildlife species, including elephants and rhinos.

“It’s a mistake to think about wildlife trafficking as just a conservation challenge when it has become a multi-billion dollar industry that fuels well-organized criminal networks,” said Senator Chris Coons. “Our bill looks at this problem for what it is — a complicated, multi-faceted issue that demands an interagency response and an on the ground approach that coordinates regional, national, and local action in countries threatened by wildlife crime. While this issue has existed for decades, and received more attention in recent years, it still remains an intensifying, violent crime that fuels instability, where imperiled animals are slaughtered for no reason other than money, and innocent human lives are lost in the process. We cannot wait any longer to use every tool at our disposal to curb this global crisis.”

Elephant tusks. (Photo via Creative Commons)

Elephant tusks. (Photo via Creative Commons)

“There is no one-size-fits-all approach to addressing the challenges posed by wildlife poaching and trafficking,” said Senator Jeff Flake.  “Our bill aims to have the federal government work with affected countries and offer recommendations to those countries on a case-by-case basis to stop this unsustainable practice.”

The END Wildlife Trafficking Act is supported by the African Wildlife Foundation, the Humane Society of the United States, TRAFFIC, Tsavo Conservation Group, the Wildlife Conservation Society, and the World Wildlife Fund.

The END Wildlife Trafficking Act would:

  • Require the Presidential Task Force on Wildlife Trafficking to work with the governments of countries affected by wildlife poaching and trafficking on an analysis of the threats each country faces, and to put together a plan with recommendations on how to address these threats;
  • Authorize a variety of assistance programs available to the Secretary of State, the USAID Administrator, and other relevant agency heads to address poaching and wildlife trafficking problems, including strengthening training for law enforcement and wildlife rangers in impacted countries, supporting capacity for investigations and border inspections, strategies to encourage community-based conservation programs, and others;
  • Promote bilateral agreements and international cooperation to combat wildlife trafficking and reduce demand for illegally traded wildlife and wildlife products; and
  • Include rigorous reporting requirements to monitor progress made on stemming the tide of poaching and trafficking in countries of concern, and to ensure the best use of taxpayer dollars.

​“We commend the work of Senators Coons and Flake for introducing this important bill, which promotes a ‘whole of government’ approach to combatting wildlife trafficking,” said Jimmiel J. Mandima, Director Program Design & Partner Relations, African Wildlife Foundation. “It sends a clear message that the U.S. government is serious about putting an end to poaching and the illegal trade in wildlife parts, and that the conservation community is not alone in waging this battle.  Critically, the legislation acknowledges the key role local communities play in protecting their natural heritage and emphasizes greater support of those communities to ensure both wildlife and people thrive.”

“The leadership of Senator Coons and Senator Flake on combatting international wildlife crime shows their commitment to addressing a crime that threatens rare animals and our security interests,” said Johan Bergenas, Senior Associate at the Stimson Center where he directs programming on environmental crime and technology capacity building in partnership with Kenyan authorities. “Their trailblazing work on the issue greatly improves the chances of a more robust response to the current wildlife crisis. It would give more tools to fight back against those who want to hurt us and our allies, while simultaneously helping to save the world’s most magnificent animals from extinction.”

“We commend Senators Coons and Flake for introducing the END Wildlife Trafficking Act,” said Ginette Hemley, Senior Vice President, Wildlife Conservation, World Wildlife Fund. “Their legislation will bolster US efforts to partner with developing countries to combat wildlife crime, reduce demand for illegal wildlife products, and strengthen incentives for wildlife conservation. Such international cooperation will be essential if we are to save elephants, rhinos, and many other species from the scourge of wildlife trafficking, and WWF strongly supports the bipartisan leadership that this legislation represents.”

Recent censuses have revealed an unmistakable decline in the elephant population in many parts of Africa. (Photo: Joe Dodson)

Recent censuses have revealed an unmistakable decline in the elephant population in many parts of Africa. (Photo: Joe Dodson)

“This measure takes a holistic response to the urgent conservation and global security threats posed by the illegal wildlife trade,” said Wayne Pacelle, President and CEO of The Humane Society of the United States. “We urge Congress to move swiftly to reach agreement on a package of reforms that will help end the scourge of wildlife trafficking.”

“The very survival of elephants, rhinos, tigers and other iconic species is threatened by wildlife trafficking,” said John Calvelli, Executive Vice President of Public Affairs at the Wildlife Conservation Society. “Poaching and trafficking operations are growing in scale and sophistication, with much of the billions of dollars generated financing extremist groups and criminal syndicates.  The U.S. can play an important role in stopping this serious transnational crime, and we applaud this bipartisan effort, led by Senators Coons and Flake. We need to address this crisis now, before it is too late.”

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