U.S. to enhance efforts to curb wildlife trafficking

July 1, 2013 at 2:03 PM
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WASHINGTON, July 1 (UPI) -- President Obama signed an executive order Monday to enhance U.S. efforts to combat the multi-billion trafficking industry that is decimating African wildlife.

The executive order will enhance coordination of U.S. government efforts against wildlife trafficking and assist foreign governments as they combat wildlife trafficking and related organized crime, the White House said in a release.

Many species face declining numbers and the possibility of extinction because of wildlife trafficking, the White House said.

China is the largest market for wildlife trafficking, followed by the United States, a White House official said Monday in a briefing during President Obama's visit to Tanzania.

"We believe that we're the second-largest after China in terms of the market for these goods," said Ben Rhodes, deputy national security adviser for strategic communications. "China is the largest market, the U.S. is second, and there are significant other places in Asia."

"Rhinoceros and elephant are the two species in particular that are being decimated," said Grant Harris, senior director for African affairs on the National Security Council. "For instance, for a rhinoceros there are about 50,000 right now left in the world. That number was about 600,000 in the mid-20th century, and so you've seen a dramatic drop. And a rhinoceros is killed every 13 hours in South Africa, for instance."

Under terms of the executive order, the U.S. Department of State will provide an additional $10 million in regional and bilateral training and technical assistance in Africa to combat wildlife trafficking, including about $3 million to South Africa, $3 million to Kenya, and $4 million throughout sub-Saharan Africa.

In addition, the U.S. Agency for International Development will begin a wildlife technology challenge, which will promote the use of innovative technologies and wildlife DNA analysis techniques to help combat wildlife trafficking.

The State Department, USAID and the Interior Department's Fish & Wildlife Service will also assign a fish and wildlife official to the U.S. Embassy in Dar es Salaam to support the Tanzanian government to develop an overarching wildlife security strategy.

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