The White House on Tuesday announced a new national initiative to fight illicit wildlife trafficking.
Officials from the Justice, State and Interior departments will co-chair the U.S. task force established by President Obama to lead the National Strategy for Combating Wildlife Trafficking.
“Record high demand for wildlife products, coupled with inadequate preventative measures and weak institutions, has resulted in an explosion of illicit trade in wildlife in recent years, with the increasing involvement of organized transnational criminal syndicates,” said Associate Attorney General Tony West of the Justice Department in a statement. “This trade undermines security, fuels corruption and contributes to the spread of disease, and it is decimating iconic animal populations.”
The strategy requires inter-agency cooperation, as well as working with foreign governments, intergovernmental and non-governmental organizations, corporations, civil society and individuals. The U.S. plan will be explained at this week’s London Conference on the Illegal Wildlife Trade.
The Justice Department’s Environmental and Natural Resources Division has long worked to protect threatened and endangered wildlife species through its enforcement of the Lacey Act and Endangered Species Act, as well as related criminal statutes. The main federal agencies that the division represents in this area are the Fish and Wildlife Service and the National Marine Fisheries Service.
“Strong enforcement is critical to stopping those who kill and traffic in these animals, whether on land or in the oceans. At the same time, the strategy recognizes that enforcement alone is not enough to stop traffickers. We must also work to reduce demand for illegal wildlife products,” said Robert Dreher, Acting Assistant Attorney General for the Justice Department’s Environment and Natural Resources Division.