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

US Border Patrol Union Accused of Taking Sides on Immigration

Report alleges agents leaking info to immigration opponents, appearing at their private events; Center for Immigration Studies director defends agents' actions More

Video Blind Somali Journalist Defies Odds in Mogadishu

Reporting from Somali capital for past decade, Abdifatah Hassan Kalgacal has been working at one of Mogadishu's leading radio stations covering parliament More

Video Rights Monitor: Hate Groups' Use of Internet to Inflame, Recruit Growing

Wiesenthal Center's Abraham Cooper says extremists have become skilled at celebrating violence, ideology on Web More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Hate Groups Spread Influence Via Interneti
X
Mike O'Sullivan
June 30, 2015 8:20 PM
Hate groups of various kinds are using the Internet for propaganda and recruitment, and a Jewish human rights organization that monitors these groups, the Simon Wiesenthal Center, says their influence is growing. The messages are different, but the calls to hatred or violence are similar. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports.
Video

Video Hate Groups Spread Influence Via Internet

Hate groups of various kinds are using the Internet for propaganda and recruitment, and a Jewish human rights organization that monitors these groups, the Simon Wiesenthal Center, says their influence is growing. The messages are different, but the calls to hatred or violence are similar. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports.
Video

Video US Silica Sand Mining Surge Worries Illinois Residents, Businesses

Increased domestic U.S. oil and gas production, thanks to advances known as “fracking,” has created a boom for other industries supporting that extraction. Demand for silica sand, used in fracking, could triple over the next five years. In the Midwest state of Illinois, people living near the mines are worried about how increased silica sand mining will affect their businesses and their health. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh has more in this first of a series of reports.
Video

Video Blind Somali Journalist Defies Odds in Mogadishu

Despite improving security in the last few years, Somalia remains one of the most dangerous countries to be a journalist – even more so for someone who cannot see. Abdulaziz Billow has the story of journalist Abdifatah Hassan Kalgacal, who has been reporting from the Somali capital for the last decade despite being blind.
Video

Video Texas Defies Same-Sex Marriage Ruling

Texas state officials have criticized the US Supreme Court decision giving same-sex couples the right to marry nationwide. The attorney general of Texas says last week's decision did not overrule constitutional "rights of religious liberty," and therefore officials performing wedding services can refuse to perform them for same-sex couples if it is against their religious beliefs. Zlatica Hoke reports on the controversy.
Video

Video Syrians Flee IS Advance in Hasaka

The Syrian government said Monday it has taken back one of several districts in Hasaka overrun by Islamic State militants. But continued fighting elsewhere in the northern city has forced thousands of civilians from their homes. In this report narrated by Bill Rodgers, VOA Kurdish Service reporter Zana Omer describes the scene in Amouda, where some of the displaced are taking refuge.
Video

Video Rabbi Hits Road to Heal Jewish-Muslim Relations in France

France is on high alert after last week's terrorist attack near the city Lyon, just six months after deadly Paris shootings. The attack have added new tensions to relations between French Jews and Muslims. France’s Jewish and Muslim communities also share a common heritage, though, and as far as one French rabbi is concerned, they are destined to be friends. From the Paris suburb of La Courneuve, Lisa Bryant reports about Rabbi Michel Serfaty and his friendship bus.
Video

Video S. Korea Christians Protest Gay Rights Festival

The U.S. Supreme Court decision mandating marriage equality nationwide has energized gay rights supporters around the world. Gay rights remain a highly contentious issue in a key U.S. ally, South Korea, where police did a deft job Sunday of preventing potential clashes between Christian protesters and gay activists. Kurt Achin reports from Seoul.
Video

Video Saudi Leaks Expose ‘Checkbook Diplomacy’ In Battle With Iran

Saudi Arabia’s willingness to wield its oil money on the global diplomatic stage appears to have been laid bare, after the website WikiLeaks published tens of thousands of leaked cables from Riyadh’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Nubians in Kenya Face Land Challenges

East Africa's ethnic Nubians have a rich cultural history that dates back thousands of years, but in Kenya they are facing hardships, including the loss of lands they have lived on for generations. They say the government has reneged on its pledge to award them title deeds for the plots. VOA's Lenny Ruvaga reports.
Video

Video Military Experts Question New Russian Tank Capabilities

Russia has been showing off its new tank design – the Armata T-14. Designers claim it is 20 years ahead of current Western designs - and driving it feels like playing a computer game. But military analysts question those assertions, and warn the cost could be too heavy a burden for Russia’s struggling economy. Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video In Kenya, Police Said to Shoot First, Ask Questions Later

An organization that documents torture and extrajudicial killings says Kenyan police were responsible for 1,252 shooting deaths in five cities, including Nairobi, between 2009 and 2014, representing 67 percent of all gun deaths in the areas reviewed. Gabe Joselow has more from Nairobi.
Video

Video In Syrian Crisis, Social Media Offer Small Comforts

Za’atari, a makeshift city in Jordan, may be the only Syrian refugee camp to tweet its activities, in an effort to keep donors motivated as the war in Syria intensifies and the humanitarian crisis deepens. Inside the camp, families say mobile phone applications help hold together families that are physically torn apart. VOA’s Heather Murdock reports.

VOA Blogs