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Wildlife trafficking trade stoppage by the U.S. to begin worldwide



by Joseph Earnest  February 27, 2014


Newscast Media WASHINGTON—U.S. experts in investigations of wildlife trafficking and enforcement of trafficking laws are about to begin duty in Bangkok and Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, marking a step forward in implementing the Obama administration's recently announced National Strategy for Combating Wildlife Trafficking.

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) Director Dan Ashe told the House Foreign Affairs Committee February 26 that overseas deployment of enforcement officers further demonstrates U.S. commitment to help other governments preserve rare animals. With congressional and State Department support, Ashe said, his service hopes to have two agents in Asia, two in Africa and one in Latin America by the end of 2014.

Organized criminal and terrorist organizations have rapidly increased slaughter of animals such as elephants and rhinoceros in response to soaring black market prices for animal horns and other parts valued in some cultures. Wildlife trafficking now looms as an international security threat because of the amount of money involved and the assets that criminal networks are able to acquire.

Long-term assignment of U.S. agents to work with counterparts overseas is a recent development, but USFWS has a long-standing involvement in programs to strengthen law enforcement protection for unique resources of the natural world.

"We continue to support the international law enforcement academies in Gaborone, Botswana, and Bangkok, Thailand, which have trained 350 law enforcement officers in wildlife crime investigations since 2002," said Ashe.

Justice Department acting Assistant Attorney General for Environment and Natural Resources Robert Dreher said the national strategy urges congressional action to designate wildlife trafficking as a "predicate offense," which would make profits earned from this criminal activity subject to money laundering laws.

"This legislative change would help take the profit out of the illegal wildlife trade and end the days of wildlife trafficking being a low-risk, high-profit crime," Dreher said.

The third co-chair of the national strategy, Assistant Secretary of State for Oceans and International Environmental and Scientific Affairs Kerri-Ann Jones, said the Obama administration’s new strategy focuses on three key goals:

• To strengthen domestic and global enforcement of laws and regulations protecting wildlife.

• To reduce the demand for products derived from illegally seized wildlife, thus minimizing the profits they bring on today's black market.

• To build international cooperation and public-private partnerships to combat poaching, trafficking and trade.

The Obama administration rolled out the strategy at the same time it announced across-the-board restrictions on U.S. trade in new ivory products and extremely limited trade internationally. This legal market has provided camouflage for the illegal market, experts say. Elimination of trade at this level puts the United States in a leadership position to attack the practice worldwide.  Add Comments>>












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