Wildlife trafficking claims spotlight at end of 2013

By: Dr. Whitney Miller, assistant director, Governmental Relations Division.

ElephantsWildlife trafficking, and the United States’ strategy for combating it, came under the microscope at the end of last year.  On Nov. 6, 2013, tons of ivory that the U.S. had seized over a 25-year period was crushed in Colorado, making a clear statement to the world that poaching wildlife should not be tolerated under any circumstances.

A little over a month later, the first meeting of the Advisory Council on Wildlife Trafficking convened in Washington, D.C., to discuss a strategy for moving forward and stopping the practice worldwide.  An executive order by the president in July 2013 mandated that this advisory council of experts be set up to enhance both domestic and foreign efforts to help to eliminate wildlife trafficking.

AVMA’s Governmental Relations Division (GRD) attended the council’s day-long meeting on Dec. 16,  discussing everything from how wildlife trafficking can help to fund terrorist groups to how to go about changing the cultural perceptions that poached wildlife products, such as ivory, can have from region to region.  The group also examined a draft National Strategy for Combating Wildlife Trafficking, which, once finalized, will guide the multi-agency effort so that resources are maximized and used effectively.

While the advisory council is in the process of developing their recommended strategy for going forward, many ongoing efforts in this area continue.  The White House has made it a priority to: offer financial and technical assistance to nations with high levels of organized wildlife crime, such as Tanzania; increase the focus on the State Department’s enforcement capabilities; and build programs through the U.S. Agency for International Development to enhance the foreign partners’ capacity to manage this issue within their countries.

It is likely that efforts to stop wildlife trafficking will continue to garner public attention in the coming months, especially in light of a hunting permit that was recently auctioned in Dallas for $350,000 to hunt an endangered black rhino. The money raised is said to be earmarked for conservation efforts, but conservation advocates are skeptical and have criticized this decision.

The AVMA will continue to monitor these efforts and offer support and expertise when needed. For more information, see AVMA’s legislative agenda on conservation issues and its related policy on the Endangered Species Act.

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