On Monday, the U.S. House of Representatives passed a bipartisan bill to combat wildlife trafficking. The Global Anti-Poaching Act, H.R. 2494, passed by voice vote and will now go to the Senate for consideration.
The bill, introduced in May by Rep. Ed Royce (R-Calif.), Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, passed the House with 113 co-sponsors — 46 Republicans and 67 Democrats. Conservation International (CI) actively supported passage of the bill.
The proposed law would address wildlife trafficking by strengthening wildlife enforcement networks and by expressing support for the United States to continue to provide defense articles and services as well as training to African countries for the purpose of combating wildlife poaching and trafficking. The bill also authorizes the Secretary of State to withhold certain assistance from countries that fail to adhere to international agreements related to endangered or threatened species, and to make wildlife trafficking violations a predicate offense for money laundering and racketeering prosecutions.
In September, CI asked readers to urge their Representatives to support this bill. Its passage in the House is a testament to the power that a single individual can make. Stay informed about CI’s efforts to fight wildlife trafficking: Sign up for email updates here.
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Wildlife trafficking has exploded into the headlines this year amid a litany of killings of iconic species in Africa. Nearly 100 elephants a day are illegally slaughtered in Africa, while more than 1,000 rhinos were killed last year in South Africa alone. A growing body of evidence has shown that profits from the trafficking in elephant ivory and rhino horn are funding terrorist groups and organized crime networks in Africa and beyond, destabilizing local economies and posing a growing threat to global security.
“It’s not just the killing of animals — it’s the trafficking,” Jill Sigal, a Senior Vice President at Conservation International, said in September. “There’s a direct connection between wildlife trafficking and U.S. economic and national security, and it affects everybody.”
News outlets have reported in recent months on the growing sophistication of wildlife traffickers, who rely on an increasingly powerful arsenal — assault rifles, helicopters, night-vision goggles — to poach animals. Traffickers are also killing the people trying to protect the animals: 29 park rangers were killed in a 12-month period between 2014 and 2015, according to the International Ranger Federation.
“We are deeply grateful to Chairman Royce for his leadership in authoring the wildlife trafficking bill and securing its passage in the House of Representatives,” Sigal said after the bill’s passage. “We are hopeful that the U.S. Senate will consider this bipartisan legislation.”
Bruno Vander Velde is CI’s editorial director.
Cover image: Last year, more than 1,000 rhinos were killed in South Africa alone. A new bill passed by the U.S. House of Representatives would help strengthen wildlife enforcement networks. (© Rod Mast)