The Fight to Put an End to Wildlife Trafficking

September 9, 2013

Courtesy of Acting Assistant Attorney General Robert G. Dreher of the Justice Department's Environment and Natural Resources Division

Today, I was honored to join officials from the Departments of State and the Interior and many others, including Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, at a White House event to announce the members of the new Advisory Council on Wildlife Trafficking.

The council will work closely with the President’s Task Force on Wildlife Trafficking, established by the Executive Order on Combating Wildlife Trafficking that the President signed in July, in developing a national strategy on these issues. The council includes many accomplished professionals from government, non-government and private sector backgrounds.  Among them is former Justice Department Environmental Crimes Assistant Chief John Webb, who has given 25 years in service to the nation protecting wildlife.  John continues to serve and support international efforts to protect wildlife through training and promoting the use of investigative techniques.   

President Obama signed Executive Order 13648 on Combating Wildlife Trafficking on July 1, 2013, establishing a Presidential Task Force on Wildlife Trafficking.  The task force is co-chaired by the Secretaries of State and the Interior and the Attorney General, or their designees, and includes senior-level representatives from 14 additional federal departments and agencies.

Vigorous enforcement of the nation’s wildlife trafficking laws, through investigation and prosecution of those who violate those laws, is a central element of the nation’s efforts to combat wildlife trafficking.  It is equally important to help other countries affected by such crimes --  whether they be the source, a trafficking transit point, or a destination for illegally taken wildlife -- build the capacity to stop this brutal trade.

Working with the Department of the Interior’s Fish and Wildlife Service and others, the Department of Justice has successfully prosecuted numerous cases of illicit wildlife smuggling involving trafficking of rhinoceros horns, elephant ivory, South African leopard, Asian and African tortoises and reptiles, and many other forms of protected wildlife and protected plant species.

The illicit wildlife trade increasingly involves international organized crime and millions of dollars, and it is driving some protected species towards extinction in our own time.  The Department of Justice treats these crimes with the utmost seriousness.

We are looking forward to fulfilling our role on the task force and to working together with other agencies and the new advisory council to develop a national strategy to stop this illegal trade.  Today’s event brings together the coordinated efforts of the U.S. government with private and nonprofit partners to address a truly international crisis.

To read more about Efforts to Combat Wildlife Trafficking at the Department of Justice