It is a great honor to be here at the Benjamin Franklin room to announce new efforts of the U.S. Agency for International Development in support of an inter-agency effort lead by Secretary of State Clinton to combat illicit wildlife trafficking. I want to share my thanks to Undersecretaries of State Robert Hormats and Tara Sonnenshine, and Assistant Secretary Kerri-Ann Jones for their leadership in this initiative.
Demand for wildlife and wildlife products has dramatically increased in recent years, attracting criminal networks that have made the illicit wildlife economy a global challenge, rivaling trafficking in drugs, persons and weapons. Regrettably, wildlife trafficking can offer greater profits, lower risk of detection, and lower penalties than other illicit trade, and the profits are fueling transnational criminal activities, and even terrorism. At USAID, we believe that wildlife trafficking is not only a security and ethical issue, it is a threat to development. Because of linkages with transnational criminal networks, illicit wildlife trade undermines security and rule of law on which development depends. In regions that depend on wildlife for ecotourism, trafficking costs jobs, reduces incomes, and threatens investment. With 75 percent of emerging infectious diseases originating in wildlife, trafficking is also a global health issue. And we know that drastically reducing populations of keystone species such as elephants and tigers can disrupt delicate ecosystems on which local communities depend.
USAID has deep experience in wildlife and biodiversity issues. Over the past two decades, USAID has become one of the world’s largest funders of biodiversity conservation, with annual program of about $185 million in more than 50 countries. Where illegal or unsustainable hunting has been identified as a priority threat, we have worked to build local capacity to protect wildlife populations by improving local law enforcement and supporting more sustainable livelihood alternatives for communities. We have also been responding to increased demand for illicit wildlife, including through our support for the ASEAN Wildlife Enforcement Network, the Asian Regional Response to Endangered Species Trafficking (ARREST) program, a variety of Interpol enforcement regimes, and a dozen other projects. Our work extends from the savannahs of Africa to the illicit markets in Asia to the peaks of the Himalayas. From the Coral Triangle in the Pacific to the fisheries of the Caribbean.
I’m pleased to announce today that we are beginning a new three-year partnership with the International Union for the Conservation of Nature on a Wildlife Trafficking, Response, Assessment and Priority Setting initiative, known as Wildlife Traps. We’re pleased to have with us today our partner in this effort, Crawford Allen from Traffic International. Wildlife Traps will focus on the illicit trade in land and marine wildlife between Africa and Asia, and improve understanding of trade routes, intervention points, links to other transnational crimes (including human and drug trafficking), international coordination and the requirements to build government and private sector capacity to fight trafficking.
I can also announce that we intend to provide up to $5 million over five years for the Global Partnership for Oceans, a World Bank-led alliance to combat trafficking in marine fish. Trafficking in marine fish represents a major loss of revenue, especially to some of the poorest African and Asian countries.
I’m particularly pleased that we are promoting in these and other efforts the application of new innovative technologies to aid enforcement and data collection. For example, our partner Freeland is working to create the WildScan Smartphone application to help police, customs and border officers identify illegal products. We are also working with groups like the Wildlife Conservation Society and the World Wildlife Fund on an open-source data collection tool to enable park rangers and community patrols to record data on poaching, plan strategic responses and measure the progress of law enforcement.
Similarly, our ARREST partner Wildlife Alliance is having continued success with its trafficking hotline, and partner International Fund for Animal Welfare has secured online demand reduction support from Baidu, the world’s largest Chinese language search engine. This has resulted in the removal of a dozen online wildlife trade platforms and delivering campaign messaging to more than tehn million people daily.
We need to be a smart, agile, and technologically advanced as the traffickers we’re combatting.
In this context, I’m delighted to announce as well that USAID will be sponsoring a so-called Tech Challenge, calling on students, researchers, activists, and others from all around the world to offer creative ideas and solutions to prevent wildlife trafficking. Please stay tuned to our website, www.usaid.gov, for further details on this exciting development.
With these brief comments, I wanted to introduce our distinguished panel of experts, who are a key part of the solution to fighting wildlife trafficking. The panel will be moderated by an international authority on conservation biology and environmental policy, Cristian Samper, President and CEO of the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS). Prior to his work with WCS, Dr. Samper directed the Smithsonian Institution’s Museum of Natural History for a decade. He will be joined by John Scanlon, Chair of the ICCWC and Secretary General of CITES; Crawford Allen from TRAFFIC International; and Jamie Sweeting, vice president for sustainability at Royal Caribbean.
Thanks again for your attendance here today.
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Last updated: November 17, 2015