President Obama revealed a new Executive Order on July 1, 2013 while in Tanzania that may give today’s endangered wildlife a fighting chance against poachers. In his announcement, the President said:
“The survival of protected wildlife species such as elephants, rhinos, great apes, tigers, sharks, tuna, and turtles has beneficial economic, social, and environmental impacts that are important to all nations. Wildlife trafficking reduces those benefits while generating billions of dollars in illicit revenues each year, contributing to the illegal economy, fueling instability, and undermining security…Today I issued a new Executive Order to better organize US government efforts in this fight so that we can cooperate with the Tanzanian government and others. This includes additional millions of dollars to help countries across the region build their capacity to meet this challenge.”
This year has proved to be a horrific time for endangered wildlife. Just a week prior to the President’s announcement, Dr. Martin Brooks, chairman of the African Rhino Specialist Group, disclosed that the West African black rhino has been declared extinct because of poaching. In addition, the Northern white rhino was reported to be “on the brink of being lost.” Also, on January 12, 2013, a family of 11 elephants was killed in the Tsavo East National Park located in southern Kenya. And according to the WESSA Rhino Initiative, as of June 2013, a total of 446 rhinos have been poached in South Africa. So it should be no surprise that several conservation groups are praising President Obama’s newest initiative. Dr. Cristian Samper, President and CEO of the Wildlife Conservation Society, issued the following statement:
“For all of the terrible news about elephants coming from Central Africa over the past several months, it is heartening to know that President Obama and his administration are calling for a coordinated strategy to stop the slaughter. We know that the problem is widespread and will take sustained efforts to curtail it, and the creation of a Presidential Task Force on Wildlife Trafficking is a much-needed and welcome step in the right direction.
“In order to save elephants and rhinos, it is imperative to stop the killing, stop the trafficking, and stop the demand. Without addressing each of these three segments, well-organized poaching networks will continue to decimate these dwindling populations.
“We thank President Obama and his administration for acting in defense of threatened elephants, rhinos and other wildlife and look forward to working with them on future actions to solve this crisis.”
The President also outlined his administration’s plan to provide $10 million in funding and assistance to federal and law enforcement agencies in order to help combat the illegal poaching industry. The plan also includes:
“A presidential task force on wildlife trafficking to develop a national strategy within six months to fight wildlife crime, led by the Secretaries of State and Treasury and the US attorney general.”
“A review of the US federal government’s transnational organized crime strategy to consider adding wildlife trafficking to the list of crimes it covers, elevating it to the same level as arms, drug and human trafficking.”
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