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

Sydney Hostage-taker Failed to Manipulate Social Media

Gunman forced captives to use personal Facebook, YouTube accounts to issue his demands; online community helped flag messages, urged others not to share them More

UN Seeks $8.4 Billion to Help War-Hit Syrians

Effort aimed at helping Syrians displaced within their own country and those who've fled to neighboring ones More

Who Are the Pakistani Taliban?

It's an umbrella group of militant organizations whose objective is enforcement of Sharia in Pakistan 'whether through peace or war' More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Putin: Russian Economy to Rebound in 2 Yearsi
X
December 18, 2014 5:13 PM
Russian President Vladimir Putin held his annual end-of-the-year news conference Thursday, tackling questions on the Russian economy, the crisis in Ukraine and Russian relations with the west. VOA's Jeff Custer reports.
Video

Video Putin: Russian Economy to Rebound in 2 Years

Russian President Vladimir Putin held his annual end-of-the-year news conference Thursday, tackling questions on the Russian economy, the crisis in Ukraine and Russian relations with the west. VOA's Jeff Custer reports.
Video

Video Nigerians Fleeing Boko Haram Languish in Camp Near Capital

In its five-year effort to impose Islamic law in northeastern Nigeria, the Boko Haram extremist group has killed thousands of people and forced hundreds of thousands to flee. Some of those who ran for their lives now live in squalor on the edges of the capital, Abuja. Chris Stein reports for VOA.
Video

Video Detained Turkish Journalists Follow Teachings of US-Based Preacher

The Turkish government’s jailing of critical journalists has sparked international condemnation and is being seen as an effort to undermine the followers of an ailing Turkish preacher based in the United States. VOA religion reporter Jerome Socolovsky has more.
Video

Video Will Pakistan School Shooting Galvanize Pakistan Against Extremism?

The attack on a military school in Pakistan’s northwest city of Peshawar left 141 dead, including 132 children. Strong statements of condemnation poured in from across the world. The country announced three days of mourning, and the leadership, both political and military, promised retribution. VOA's Ayesha Tanzeem looks at how likely the Pakistani government is to clamp down on all extremist groups.
Video

Video ‘Anti-Islamization’ Marches Increase Tensions In Germany

Anti-immigrant rallies in Germany have been building in recent weeks, peaking Monday night in the city of Dresden where tens of thousands of people turned out to demonstrate against what they call the ‘Islamization’ of the West. Germany has offered asylum to more Syrian refugees than any other country, and this appears to have set off the protests. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Aceh Rebuilt Decade After Tsunami, But Scars Remain

On December 26, 2004 there was an earthquake in the Indian Ocean so powerful it caused the Earth’s axis to wobble a few centimeters. Onshore on the island of Sumatra, the resulting tsunami was devastating. A decade later, VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from Banda Aceh, Indonesia, where although there is little remaining evidence of the physical devastation, the psychological scars among survivors remain.
Video

Video Refugees Living in Kenya Long for Peace in the Home Countries

Kenya is host to numerous refugees seeking safe haven from conflict. Immigrants from Somalia face challenges in their new lives in Kenya. Ahead of International Migrants Day (December 18) Lenny Ruvaga has more for VOA News from the Kenyan capital.
Video

Video Turkey's Authoritarianism Dismays Western Allies

The Turkish government has been defiant in the face of criticism at home and abroad for its raids targeting opposition media. The European Union on Monday expressed dismay after President Recep Tayyip Erdogan lashed out at Brussels for criticizing his government's action. Turkey's bid to be considered for EU membership has been on hold while critics accuse the NATO ally of increasingly authoritarian rule. Zlatica Hoke reports.

All About America

AppleAndroid