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U.S. unveils a National Strategy for Combating Wildlife Trafficking as World Leaders Gather

This is going to be a big week for the global efforts to combat illegal wildlife trade. As I write this, world leaders from North America, Europe, Asia and Africa have gathered in London to tackle the issue of wildlife crime. Tomorrow they are expected to announce major commitments in the global fight to stop wildlife crime

Yesterday, almost in prelude, the White House unveiled its first-ever National Strategy for Combating Wildlife Trafficking. This strategy was developed by the Presidential Advisory Council on Wildlife Trafficking. Both WWF and TRAFFIC sit on this council.

African elephant (Loxodonta africana) bull on savanna, Masai Mara, Kenya. African elephants are a threatened species with about 600,000 remaining in the wild. Elephant poaching in Africa has soared and ntensified in recent years. This is largely due to an increasing demand for ivory in Asia, especially China. In 2012 an estimated 22,000 elephants were slaughtered across Africa for their ivory which is often made into carvings and jewellery. Illegal wildlife trade is a crime with wide security implications and has well documented links to other forms of illegal trafficking, the financing of rebel groups, corruption and money laundering. However the issue is primarily seen as an environmental issue, which often puts it low on governments’ agendas. WWF is working with our partners at TRAFFIC to advocate for illegal wildlife trade to be given higher priority at national and international levels. © naturepl.com / Andy Rouse / WWF-Canon

Elephant poaching in Africa has soared and intensified in recent years. This is largely due to an increasing demand for ivory in Asia, especially China. In 2012 an estimated 22,000 elephants were slaughtered across Africa for their ivory which is often made into carvings and jewellery. Illegal wildlife trade is a crime with wide security implications and has well documented links to other forms of illegal trafficking, the financing of rebel groups, corruption and money laundering. However the issue is primarily seen as an environmental issue, which often puts it low on governments’ agendas. WWF is working with our partners at TRAFFIC to advocate for illegal wildlife trade to be given higher priority at national and international levels. © naturepl.com / Andy Rouse / WWF-Canon

The US is a critically important consumer market and transit point in global wildlife crime. But it is also a leader in mobilizing major influence and leadership to tackle the issue internationally.

The US national strategy will focus on three key areas:

  • Strengthening enforcement and mobilizing new federal agencies in the fight to stop wildlife crime (such as money-laundering authorities and intelligence experts).
  • Reducing consumer demand for illegally traded wildlife.
  • Building international cooperation, commitment and public-private partnerships.

The document highlights the immediate crisis facing elephants and rhinos while also calling attention to lower-profile but equally exploited species such as pangolins, tunas, corals and tarantulas. The full document can be downloaded here: http://worldwildlife.org/publications/national-strategy-for-combating-wildlife-trafficking.

Now I can’t wait to hear what new initiatives will be announced tomorrow from London. It should be an exciting day…