WASHINGTON (May 22, 2018) – Today, WCS (Wildlife Conservation Society) Vice President of Species Conservation Liz Bennett addressed the House Foreign Affairs Committee to stress the need for dedicated U.S. government investment to combat wildlife trafficking.

Dr. Bennett raised the example of the Central African Regional Program for the Environment (CARPE), a long-term program of the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) and several partners which has demonstrated success in stopping poaching and trafficking, supporting governance and the rule of law, and conserving wildlife.

The following is an expert from Dr. Bennett’s testimony:

“We urgently need targeted action and funding to address wildlife trafficking along the trade chain to prevent poaching, dismantle trafficking networks, and reduce the market for illegal wildlife products. […]

“In the long term, it is vital to eliminate demand for illegal wildlife products, and to prevent consumers from being able to buy illegal wildlife. […]

“Corruption at all levels facilitates wildlife crime, and undermines the rule of law, good governance, and sustainable development. The US should take appropriate action through diplomatic and other channels to address corruption. This includes scrutinizing obligations under the various relevant UN Conventions. We encourage the US to focus on anti-corruption efforts in future international assistance programs. [...]

“So, what more can be done? Even though we are having some successes where sufficient resources and effective management exist, we are still not bringing this up to the necessary scale to save many important populations of multiple species, or to allow reduced populations to recover. Enforcement efforts need to be better funded and, crucially, better managed in many places, with attention to transparency and anti-corruption programs. Moreover, local enforcement teams must work in cooperation with local communities as true partners in the protection effort.  

“Urgently needed is continued USG funding at points all along the trade chain.  WCS is deeply concerned about the Administration’s proposed cuts to critical programs to combat wildlife trafficking in the FY19 Budget, including: 

·         The USAID Biodiversity Program is cut 72% from $269 million to $75 million;

·         CARPE is cut from $40 million to $7 million with no commitment to continue supporting longstanding protected areas and combating wildlife trafficking programs in the region at the end of its current phase of work. The US Government should urgently commit to a 4th Phase of CARPE.  

·         The Combating Wildlife Trafficking initiative implemented by INL and USAID is cut more than 50% from $90 million to $38 million; 

·         The US contribution to the GEF has also been cut more than 50% in the midst of the 7th Replenishment negotiations.

“I am pleased to see that 74 Members of Congress and 26 Senators urged Appropriators to fully restore these ill-advised cuts at a time when so much more needs to be done, including to address corruption and instability.”