Wildlife trafficking: A threat to your security

© Rod Mast

Wildlife trafficking is a US$ 8–10 billion illegal enterprise that threatens iconic species, including elephants and rhinos, as well as U.S. and global security. Wildlife trafficking is directly connected to criminal networks, and many experts have found a connection with terrorist organizations.

The crisis has now reached a crescendo. One recent study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences estimated that 100,000 African elephants were killed for ivory between 2010 and 2012.

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The slaughter of these animals threatens the diversity of life on Earth and depletes reservoirs of natural capital that sustain the well-being of people. There has been a massive increase in wildlife trafficking due in part to the growing global black market for wildlife products. Per pound, ivory currently sells for nearly $1,000 and rhino horn for more than $25,000.

The poachers are sophisticated. They are armed, and many use helicopters and night vision goggles to stalk their prey. Park rangers, who are on the front lines trying to protect these animals, are among those most at risk. According to the International Ranger Federation, poachers killed 29 rangers during 2013-2014.

Wildlife poaching also threatens economies in Africa that depend heavily on wildlife-based tourism for jobs and livelihoods.

The U.S. Congress understands the threat posed by wildlife trafficking and is taking action. Congressman Ed Royce, Chairman of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, has authored and sponsored bipartisan legislation — H.R. 2494, the Global Anti-Poaching Act — to support global anti-poaching efforts and to strengthen the capacity of partner countries to counter wildlife trafficking.

Wildlife trafficking threatens the security of everyone around the world. Those of us in the United States can play a role in helping this bill pass Congress and become law. Call your Representative at (202) 225-3121. Express your support for the bill and ask that they co-sponsor H.R. 2494. Let your voice be heard.

Peter Seligmann is the chairman and CEO of Conservation International.