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.
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

Guatemala Mudslide Death Toll Rises to 86

Death toll is expected to continue to rise as emergency crews dig through tons of earth for an estimated 350 people still missing More

Goodbye Pocahontas: Photos Reveal Today's Real Native Americans

Weary of stereotypes, photographer Matika Wilbur is determined to reshape the public's perception of her people More

Debris Found in Search for Missing Ship

Objects located Sunday have not yet been confirmed to be from the 240 meter container ship, El Faro, which disappeared in the eye of Hurricane Joaquin, according to US Coast Guard More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Russia’s Syria Involvement Raising Concerns in Europei
Luis Ramirez
October 02, 2015 4:45 PM
European nations are joining the United States in demanding that Russia stop targeting opposition groups other than the Islamic State militants as Russian warplanes continue to conduct raids in Syria. The demand came in a statement from Britain, France, Germany, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and the United States Friday. VOA Europe correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.

Video Russia’s Syria Involvement Raising Concerns in Europe

European nations are joining the United States in demanding that Russia stop targeting opposition groups other than the Islamic State militants as Russian warplanes continue to conduct raids in Syria. The demand came in a statement from Britain, France, Germany, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and the United States Friday. VOA Europe correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.

Video First Self-Driving Truck Debuts on European Highways

The first automated semi-trailer truck started its maiden voyage Friday, Oct. 2, on a European highway. The Daimler truck called 'Actros' is the first potentially mass-produced truck whose driver will be required only to monitor the situation, similar to the role of an airline captain while the plane is in autopilot mode. VOA’s George Putic reports.

Video Nano-tech Filter Cleans Dirty Water

Access to clean water is a problem for hundreds of millions of people around the world. Now, a scientist and chemical engineer in Tanzania (in East Africa) is working to change that by creating an innovative water filter that makes dirty water safe. VOA’s Deborah Block has the story.

Video Demand Rising for Organic Produce in Cambodia

In Cambodia, where rice has long been the main cash crop, farmers are being encouraged to turn to vegetables to satisfy the growing demand for locally produced organic farm products. Daniel de Carteret has more from Phnom Penh.

Video Migrant Influx Costs Europe, But Economy Could Benefit

The influx of hundreds of thousands of refugees and migrants is testing Europe’s ability to respond – especially in the poorer Balkan states. But some analysts argue that Europe will benefit by welcoming the huge numbers of young people – many of them well educated and willing to work. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.

Video Botanists Grow Furniture, with Pruning Shears

For something a bit out of the ordinary to furnish your home, why not consider wooden chairs, crafted by nature, with a little help from some British botanists with an eye for design. VOA’s Jessica Berman reports.

Video New Fabric Helps Fight Dust-Related Allergies

Many people around the world suffer from dust-related allergies, caused mainly by tiny mites that live in bed linen. Polish scientists report they have successfully tested a fabric that is impenetrable to the microscopic creatures. VOA’s George Putic has more.

Video Burkina Faso's Economy Deeply Affected by Political Turmoil

Political turmoil in Burkina Faso over the past year has taken a toll on the economy. The transitional government is reporting nearly $70 million in losses in the ten days that followed a short-lived coup by members of the presidential guard earlier this month. The crisis shut businesses and workers went on strike. With elections on the horizon, Emilie Iob reports on what a return to political stability can do for the country's economic recovery.

Video Fleeing Violence, Some Syrians Find Refuge in Irbil

As Syrians continue to flee their country’s unrest to seek new lives in safer places, VOA Persian Service reporter Shepol Abbassi visited Irbil, where a number Syrians have taken refuge. During the religious holidy of Eid al-Adha, the city largely shut down, as temperatures soared. Amy Katz narrates his report.

Video Nigeria’s Wecyclers Work for Reusable Future in Lagos

The streets and lagoons of Africa's largest city - Lagos, Nigeria - are often clogged with trash, almost none of which gets recycled. One company is trying to change that. Chris Stein reports for VOA from Lagos.

Video Sketch Artist Helps Catch Criminals, Gives a Face to Deceased

Police often face the problem of trying to find a crime suspect based on general descriptions that could fit hundreds of people in the vicinity of the crime. In these cases, an artist can use information from witnesses to sketch a likeness that police can show the public via newspapers and television. But, as VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Houston, such sketches can also help bring back faces of the dead.

Video Thailand Set to Build China-like Internet Firewall

Thai authorities are planning to tighten control over the Internet, creating a single international access point so they can better monitor content. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from Bangkok on what is being called Thailand’s own "Great Firewall."

Video Croatian Town’s War History Evokes Empathy for Migrants

As thousands of Afghanistan, Iraqi and Syrian migrants pass through Croatia, locals are reminded of their own experiences with war and refugees in the 1990s. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from the town of Vukovar, where wartime scars still are visible today.

Video Long Drought Affecting California’s Sequoias

California is suffering under a historic four-year drought and scientists say even the state's famed sequoia trees are feeling the pain. The National Park Service has started detailed research to see how it can help the oldest living things on earth survive. VOA’s George Putic reports.

VOA Blogs