Obama Takes On|Wildlife Poachers

     WASHINGTON (CN) – President Barack Obama has taken aim at the “international crisis” of wildlife poaching, according to an executive order.
     Obama’s order cited concerns that once small-scale poaching operations now have become transnational “armed and organized criminal syndicates” that generate billions in illicit revenue used to fuel instability and undermine national security. The president also noted that prevention of live trafficking would help in the control of emerging infectious diseases.
     “The United States is committed to combating wildlife trafficking, related corruption, and money laundering. With our international partners, we are working to reduce demand, strengthen enforcement, and building capacity to address these challenges bilaterally, regionally, and multilaterally,” a White House statement about the order said.
     The order mandates the establishment of a Presidential Task Force on Wildlife Trafficking which is to include “designated senior-level representatives” from at least 14 federal agencies, and is to be co-chaired by the Secretary of State, the Secretary of the Interior and the Attorney General.
     The task force has six months to produce a National Strategy for Combating Wildlife Trafficking, which is to include support for anti-poaching activities, coordination of regional law enforcement efforts, and strategies to “reduce illicit trade and reduce consumer demand for trade in protected species,” according to the action.
     In addition, the order mandates that the co-chairs of the task force will establish an Advisory Council on Wildlife Trafficking comprised of eight members who are not employees of the federal government, to provide expertise to the task force.
     During the president’s trip to Africa, he announced in Tanzania that the U.S. will provide an additional $10 million for training and technical assistance to combat wildlife trafficking in key African countries, according to the White House statement.
     The executive order is to “better organize U.S. government efforts in this fight so that we can cooperate with the Tanzanian government and others,” Obama was quoted as saying in a World Wildlife Fund (WWF) press release.
     The U.S. Agency for International Development invests $200 million annually to support biodiversity conservation throughout the world, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service provides $10 million annually for wildlife conservation throughout Africa and Asia, and various other U.S. agencies provide funding, training and support for international anti-poaching efforts through enforcement, conservation, and demand-reduction programs, the White House statement noted.
     Almost 30,000 elephants a year are slaughtered for their tusks and 446 rhinos have already been slaughtered for their horns this year, the WWF press release stated. “President Obama’s commitment to help stop the global crime wave that is emptying the continent’s forests and savannas is welcome news. It gives a critical boost for everyone involved in fighting wildlife trafficking-from rangers on the ground to local conservation groups to decision-makers around the globe,” Carter Roberts, President and CEO of WWF-US, was quoted as saying in the group’s press release.

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