Obama Combats Wildlife Trafficking

Published: 02 July 2013


The White House launched an initiative in Tanzania to combat illegal trafficking and poaching, according to The Washington Post. 

President Obama issued an executive order to convene a Cabinet-level task force within six months to create a national strategy to combat illegal wildlife trafficking worldwide, and an outside advisory panel. The initiative includes $10 million to address rhino and elephant poaching in Africa.

Wildlife trafficking of species that are poached in developing nations and sold in wealthier countries is a rapidly growing industry. There is between $7 billion and $10 billion in the illegal trade of animals each year.

About 30,000 African elephants were illegally killed in 2012, the highest number in 20 years. In South Africa nearly 450 rhinos have been killed this year alone. The World Wildlife Foundation reports that rhino poaching in South Africa increased 3000 percent between 2007 and 2011.

The demand for animal parts comes mainly from Asia, and many of the syndicates are based in China.

“I know its come up at the president and the Secretary of State level with the Chinese,” deputy national security adviser Ben Rhodes told reporter.

Rhinoceros horns are selling on the black market for $30,000 a pound, more expensive than its equivalent in gold. Ivory from elephant tusks sells for $1,000 a pound.

Due to budget sequester procedures, US efforts are suffering. The Fish and Wildlife Office of Law Enforcement cancelled plans to train 24 new agents and 14 existing vacancies will not be filled. However, Obama announced that he would assign one officer from the Fish and Wildlife Service to Tanzania to provide assistance on this issue.