For the first time, U.S. military could donate old equipment to wildlife rangers
Bill calls for wildlife crimes to be prosecuted under money laundering and racketeering laws, both increasing penalties and acting as a deterrent
Rep. Ed Royce (R-CA) and Rep. Eliot Engel (D-NY) jointly introduce bill as chair and ranking member of House Foreign Affairs Committee
WASHINGTON (May 22, 2015) – WCS (Wildlife Conservation Society) applauded the introduction of a bill, H.R. 2494, the Global Anti-Poaching Act, that would bolster wildlife trafficking law enforcement, including allowing the transfer of old military equipment to rangers and strengthening the prosecution of offenders under racketeering and money laundering laws. Rep. Ed Royce (R-CA) and Rep. Eliot Engel (D-NY) introduced the bill.
Rep. Eliot Engel (D-NY) said, "Wildlife trafficking is a security challenge around the world and here at home. The criminal networks responsible for the killing and trafficking of endangered wildlife are often the same ones that are engaging in human trafficking and the illegal weapons trade in Africa. To ensure a safe future for our most beloved species, we need to provide the tools to stop poaching on the ground, prosecute those responsible, and treat wildlife trafficking as the serious crime that it is."
The legislation would make a major impact on preventing and prosecuting wildlife crimes, including the illegal trade in elephant ivory, rhino horn, tiger parts and other endangered animal parts, by:
· Giving authority to the Department of Defense to provide training and equipment, including communications and surveillance tools and night-vision goggles, for African countries fighting wildlife trafficking;
· Allowing violations of the African Elephant Conservation Act or Rhinoceros and Tiger Conservation Act, and Endangered Species Act to be prosecuted under existing U.S. money laundering and racketeering statutes and the Travel Act, which have stricter penalties;
· Supporting the professionalization of wildlife law enforcement units by helping create training and accreditation standards and procedures that ensure anti-poaching forces are ready and well-equipped; and
· Creating a wildlife trafficking “scorecard” that accounts for countries that actively engage in wildlife trafficking or fail to adhere to international standards and law for preventing trafficking, to ensure that U.S. assistance and funds go to countries that are effectively fighting against wildlife crime.
Dr. Cristián Samper, WCS President and CEO and a member of the President’s Advisory Council on Wildlife Trafficking, said, “This legislation is a good step toward recognizing the seriousness of illegal wildlife trade as transnational crime, and ensuring that the U.S. government, including the Department of Defense, is able to assist foreign governments that truly want to tackle this crisis. The bill will help to professionalize wildlife enforcement units in key countries, while also helping to ensure that U.S. foreign assistance is targeted where it will truly make a difference. This bill effectively mirrors some of the Advisory Council’s recommendations for implementing the National Strategy on Wildlife Trafficking.”
John Calvelli, WCS Executive Vice President of Public Affairs and director of the 96 Elephants campaign, said, “Wildlife trafficking is a serious crime that threatens some of our most iconic species with extinction. The current penalties need to be enhanced to deter the traffickers and criminal syndicates behind the crimes. There is much more that the U.S. government can do to protect these endangered species. We applaud this bipartisan effort to make sure poachers and traffickers are held accountable and serve as a greater deterrent to future wrongdoing. The American people have spoken loudly on this issue, based on 765,000 letters sent to representatives through the 96 Elephants campaign, that this should be a priority for both political parties.”
Currently, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the U.S. Department of Justice have worked together under a program called Operation Crash to detect, deter and prosecute those engaged in the illegal killing of rhinos and the unlawful trafficking of rhino horns and elephant ivory, resulting in more than two dozen arrests and a dozen convictions. The proposed changes within the new legislation would arm such efforts with stronger enforcement mechanisms and larger possible fines and prison sentences for serious offenders.
Poaching and wildlife trafficking operations are growing in scale and sophistication, threatening the extinction of some of the world’s most iconic species, while also threatening the livelihoods and security of local communities around the globe. Wildlife trafficking is also a national security issue. Armed terrorist and militia groups in Africa, including the Lord’s Resistance Army and the Janjaweed militia, have been reported to use the trafficking of wildlife products including elephant ivory to finance other illicit activities such as the trafficking of drugs, weapons and people.
Last year, the Obama Administration announced a National Strategy to Combat Wildlife Trafficking, which includes strengthening global enforcement, reducing demand for illegal wildlife products, and increasing international collaboration. The Strategy also calls for a ban on the domestic trade of ivory and rhino horn. Dr. Cristián Samper, WCS President and CEO, and Dr. Susan Lieberman, WCS Vice President, International Policy, are members of the President’s Advisory Council on Wildlife Trafficking, which informed the drafting of the National Strategy and its Implementation Plan.
Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS)
MISSION: WCS saves wildlife and wild places worldwide through science, conservation action, education, and inspiring people to value nature. VISION: WCS envisions a world where wildlife thrives in healthy lands and seas, valued by societies that embrace and benefit from the diversity and integrity of life on earth. To achieve our mission, WCS, based at the Bronx Zoo, harnesses the power of its Global Conservation Program in more than 60 nations and in all the world’s oceans and its five wildlife parks in New York City, visited by 4 million people annually. WCS combines its expertise in the field, zoos, and aquarium to achieve its conservation mission. Visit: www.wcs.org; http://www.facebook.com/TheWCS; http://www.youtube.com/user/WCSMedia Follow: @thewcs.
96 Elephants (www.96elephants.org) – named for the number of elephants currently gunned down each day by poachers – is a WCS campaign that focuses on: securing effective U.S. moratorium laws; bolstering elephant protection with additional funding; and educating the public about the link between ivory consumption and the elephant poaching crisis. WCS’s 96 Elephants campaign brings together world citizens, partners, thought leaders, and change makers to leverage collective influence to stop the killing, stop the trafficking, and stop the demand.