News / USA

Obama Wildlife Trafficking Plan May Also Boost Security

U.S. President Barack Obama addresses business leaders forum, Dar es Salaam, July 1, 2013.
U.S. President Barack Obama addresses business leaders forum, Dar es Salaam, July 1, 2013.
Reuters
— A White House plan to curb illegal trafficking in rhino horn, elephant tusks and body parts from other endangered wildlife could have the side benefit of helping to stabilize parts of Africa plagued by insurgent groups, military and political analysts say.
 
President Barack Obama's announcement of the $10 million plan, made in Tanzania on Monday, was a watershed moment in the expanding field of environmental security, according to Kent Butts, who until May was the director of the national security issues group at the U.S. Army War College.
 
Paramilitary groups like the Uganda-based Lord's Resistance Army and al Shabaab, which is allied with al-Qaida, have been using wildlife poaching to fund their activities in Africa, Butts said on Tuesday by phone from Pennsylvania.
 
David Hayes, deputy secretary at the Interior Department, said illegal trade in wild animal parts has escalated as organized crime syndicates have become involved.
 
"Al Shabaab's recent merger with al-Qaida makes the link between wildlife poaching and extremist ideology and terrorism more clear," he said. "The fact that both those groups have clearly been implicated in illegal poaching make it difficult to say this isn't a meaningful national security issue."
 
Rhinoceros horns, prized as an aphrodisiac in parts of Asia, sell on the black market for $30,000 a pound, making them "literally worth greater than their weight in gold," Grant Harris, senior director for the White House National Security Council, told reporters traveling with Obama in Africa.
 
Ivory from elephant tusks sells for $1,000 a pound, contributing to a global illegal trade in animal parts of between $7 billion and $10 billion a year, Harris said.
 
The Obama plan comes after more than a year of international efforts to bring this issue forward, including a "call for action" by former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. There have also been initiatives by the United Nations, the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), the British royal family, and the Group of Eight industrialized nations.
 
Task force

With $10 million in State Department funds added to resources at different U.S. agencies, the White House plan will set up a task force to handle illegal wildlife trafficking. It will be led by the secretaries of State and Treasury and the U.S. attorney general and requires a national strategy to combat wildlife trafficking within six months.
 
Obama's focus will re-prioritize matters at U.S. government agencies to focus in a more coordinated way on wildlife poaching and trafficking, Hayes said in a conference call.
 
The plan also calls for an expert on African wildlife from the U.S. National Fish and Wildlife Service to be based in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, to work on the problem, at the request of Tanzanian officials, Hayes said.
 
John Scanlon, secretary-general of CITES, saw security implications in Obama's plan, with the potential to improve stability in Africa and provide support for local officials to combat wildlife trafficking.
 
The small amount of new money involved won't necessarily be a hindrance, Scanlon said from Switzerland: "In combating wildlife crime ... you can talk about investments in the millions and tens of millions [of dollars] and you can achieve a lot. It's not like if you're talking about combating climate change, where you're talking about multiple billions."
 
Vanda Felbab-Brown, a Brookings Institution expert on non-traditional security threats, voiced concern about the pervasiveness of the problem and the difficulty of curbing demand, with most markets for trafficked animal parts outside the United States.
 
Corruption extending from park rangers to government leaders in parts of Africa will make law enforcement challenging, Felbab-Brown said by phone from Afghanistan.

You May Like

Is Air Travel Safe?

Aviation expert says despite tragic losses of Malaysian Airlines flights 370 and 17, industry experienced lowest fatality rate in recorded history last year More

Multimedia 100 Days Later, Nigerian Girls Still Held

Activists holding rallies in Nigeria and several other countries to mark 100th day of captivity for more than 200 schoolgirls being held by Boko Haram More

Chocolate Too Bitter? Swap Sugar for Mushrooms

US food technology company develops fermentation process using mushrooms to reduce bitterness in cocoa beans, believes it will cut sugar content in candy More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Israel Targets Gaza Supply Tunnelsi
X
July 24, 2014 4:42 AM
The Israeli military has launched a ground operation in Gaza to destroy the myriad tunnels that may have been used to smuggle weapons to Hamas. VOA's Zlatica Hoke reports that could mean more hardship for the people of Gaza, who obtain some of their essential supplies through these underground passages
Video

Video Israel Targets Gaza Supply Tunnels

The Israeli military has launched a ground operation in Gaza to destroy the myriad tunnels that may have been used to smuggle weapons to Hamas. VOA's Zlatica Hoke reports that could mean more hardship for the people of Gaza, who obtain some of their essential supplies through these underground passages
Video

Video MH17's 'Black Boxes' Could Reveal Crash Details

The government of Malaysia now has custody of the cockpit voice and flight data recorders from Malaysia Airlines Flight 17, which was hit by a missile over Ukraine before crashing last week. As VOA's Carolyn Presutti reports, the so-called black boxes may hold information about the final minutes of the flight.
Video

Video Living in the Shadows Panel Discussion

Following a screening of the new VOA documentary, "AIDS - Living in the Shadows," at the World AIDS conference in Melbourne, a panel discussed the film and how to combat the stigma associated with HIV/AIDS.
Video

Video IAEA: Iran Turns its Enriched Uranium Into Less Harmful Form

Iran has converted its stockpiles of enriched uranium into a less dangerous form that is more difficult to use for nuclear weapons, according to the United Nations’ Atomic Energy Agency. The move complies with an interim deal reached with Western powers on Iran's nuclear program last year, in exchange for easing of sanctions. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.
Video

Video Relic of Saint Draws Catholics Worried About Immigration Issue

A Roman Catholic saint who is a figure of devotion for those crossing the border into the United States is attracting believers concerned about the plight of undocumented immigrants. Mike O'Sullivan reports from Los Angeles, where a relic of Saint Toribio has drawn thousands to local churches.
Video

Video US Awards Medal of Honor for Heroics in Bloodiest of Afghan Battles

U.S. combat troops are withdrawing from Afghanistan, on pace to leave the country by the end of this year. But on Monday, U.S. President Barack Obama took time to honor a soldier whose actions while under fire in Afghanistan earned him the Medal of Honor. VOA's Jeff Seldin has more from the Pentagon.
Video

Video Ukraine Rebels Surrender MH17 Black Boxes

After days of negotiations, a senior separatist leader handed over two black boxes from an airliner downed over eastern Ukraine to Malaysian experts early Tuesday. While on Monday, the U.N. Security Council unanimously demanded that armed groups controlling the crash site allow safe and unrestricted access to the wreckage.
Video

Video In Cambodia, HIV Diagnosis Brings Deadly Shame

Although HIV/AIDS is now a treatable condition, a positive diagnosis is still a life altering experience. In Cambodia, people living with HIV are often disowned by friends, family and the community. This humiliation can be unbearable. We bring you one Cambodian woman’s struggle to overcome a life tragedy and her own HIV positive diagnosis.

AppleAndroid