Washington — Wildlife trafficking is a global issue involving national security, public health and economic security, and requires a concerted global response, says Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton.
At the Partnership Meeting on Wildlife Trafficking held at the State Department November 8, she called on private and government organizations everywhere to join the Coalition Against Wildlife Trafficking, a global partnership for sharing information on poachers and illicit traders. The networks provided by the coalition, she said, are critical to strengthening protection efforts and enhancing cooperation among key countries.
"To build on these efforts, today I'm calling for the creation of a global system of regional wildlife enforcement networks to take advantage of those networks that already are operating and the lessons we have learned from them," Clinton said. To facilitate this, she said, the State Department is pledging $100,000 to help get this new global system up and running.
In her remarks to an audience of ambassadors to the United States, U.S. lawmakers and representatives from nongovernmental organizations involved in wildlife protection, Clinton said wildlife trafficking relies on "porous borders, corrupt officials and strong networks of organized crime, all of which undermine our mutual security."
"I'm asking the intelligence community to produce an assessment of the impact of large-scale wildlife trafficking on our security interests so we can fully understand what we're up against," she said, adding that organized criminal gangs are well-equipped to exploit the lucrative business of wildlife trafficking.The corruption these gangs foster, Clinton said, sinks deep into local societies. She added: "We have good reason to believe that rebel militias are players in a worldwide ivory market worth millions and millions of dollars a year."
Clinton enumerated the steps the United States is taking to combat wildlife trafficking. These include:
• Working with leaders from around the world to develop a global consensus on wildlife protection.
• Building scientific partnerships. The secretary announced the State Department's three new science envoys -- Bernard Amadei , founder of Engineers Without Borders; Susan Hockfield of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology; and evolutionary biologist Barbara Schaal -- who will work to create a consensus with scientists around the world about the best ways to protect endangered wildlife.
• Increasing public support for wildlife protection. "We want to make buying goods, products from trafficked wildlife [and] endangered species unacceptable, socially unacceptable," Clinton said. To this end, U.S. embassies are launching an outreach campaign to raise public awareness about this issue.
• Expanding enforcement. The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) has provided more than $24 million over the past five years for a range of programs that combat wildlife crimes. Last year, USAID launched the ARREST program, which is establishing regional centers of expertise and expanding training programs for law enforcement.
The world's wildlife, Clinton said, is a precious and limited resource that cannot be replenished once it is gone. "Those who profit from it illegally are not just undermining our borders and our economies," she said. "They are truly stealing from the next generation. So we have to work together to stop them and ensure a sustainable future for our wildlife, the people who live with them and the people who appreciate them everywhere."