Interior Department Touts Anti-Poaching Efforts

WASHINGTON (CN) – The Department of the Interior touted progress by the United States in addressing the crisis of wildlife poaching – a threat that, combined with climate change and habitat loss, is projected to cut two-thirds of vertebrate populations by 2020 from the previous half-century.

Though wildlife populations have declined by nearly 60 percent over the past four decades, officials credit a National Strategy  by the President’s Task Force to Combat Wildlife Trafficking with having helped curb that tide over the past couple of years.

“One of its key conclusions was that the U.S. and other major trading nations reduce consumer demand for ivory, exotic skins, scales and other animal parts,” according to a statement from the Interior Department, which notes that the United States is one of the largest markets for illegal wildlife products.

What this research shows is that “traditional NGOs and government agencies cannot do the job by themselves,” according to the statement.

“Companies need to close off their supply chains; corporations and NGOs must reach out to the public, with the help of media experts, and raise awareness of the crisis and shut off the U.S. and other markets for illegal wildlife products,” it continues.

Along with the task force, the Interior Department say its efforts have also received help from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the U.S. Wildlife Trafficking Alliance and Congress.

“Through its bipartisan passage of the Eliminate, Neutralize and Disrupt (‘END’) Wildlife Trafficking Act, Congress is requiring that the work of the task force continue, and has called for on-going reports of progress made under the National Strategy and its implementation plan – including the demand reduction efforts that the Alliance and its partners are focusing on,” the statement continues.

Partners in the alliance’s network are said to include e-commerce giants, fashion-industry icons and leaders in the travel industry.

Agency officials commended the commitment of these companies to corporate social responsibility.

They also applauded efforts by nonprofits, highlighting in particular the the World Wildlife Foundation, WildAid, the International Fund for Animal Welfare and a wildlife-trade monitor called Traffic.

These groups helped “develop an e-commerce policy framework that will simplify shopping guidelines for consumers, identify prohibited products and eliminate loopholes that make easy for criminals to traffic wildlife online,” according to the statement.