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Yesterday, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton announced her plans for US and international cooperation to study and curtail the illegal trafficking of wildlife products throughout the world. She has committed US intelligence teams to the study of how  growing levels of illegal animal poaching impact national security. Additionally, she has hopes for global cooperation in the following areas:

  • Consensus regarding the importance of wildlife preservation.
  • Outreach campaigns to dissuade consumers from purchasing products that derive from endangered species.
  • Expansion of enforcement areas; release of funds to support the combat of wildlife crimes.
  • Involvement in the Coalition Against Wildlife Trafficking; a global partnership for sharing information on poachers and illicit traders.

The elevation of illegal poaching to a security threat is one that has conservationists feeling excited and vindicated. As a result of growing numbers of middle class citizens with expendable income throughout the world, illegal animal products  like ivory and rhinoceros horn are growing in demand. Some even estimate that the illegal animal product market rivals that of illegal arms and drugs.

With ivory selling for close to $1,000 per pound and rhinoceros horn at $30,000 per pound, it is no wonder that illegal poaching has become a serious and damaging endeavor. Poachers often have access to automatic weapons, night vision goggles, and helicopters in order to acquire and transport their goods over international boundaries. And there is evidence to suggest that rebel militias are becoming involved. Meanwhile, numbers of elephants and rhinoceros continue to dwindle (there are an estimated 8 northern white rhinos in existence today).

All of this is to say that it is most definitely the right time to step up and take a stand. I’m proud of our Secretary for speaking out and hope that progress can be made.

 

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