Remarks as prepared for delivery
I am honored to represent the United States here today, along with my colleagues from the United States Department of State and the Department of the Interior. It is a privilege to join you here to discuss the work we are all doing to combat the increasing global crisis posed by international wildlife trafficking.
Last year’s London Conference, the predecessor to this meeting, coincided with the release of the U.S. National Strategy for Combating Wildlife Trafficking. The U.S. National Strategy set forth a robust, whole-of-government approach that focused on three strategic priorities: strengthening domestic and global enforcement; reducing demand for illegally traded wildlife; and building international cooperation and commitment to combat wildlife trafficking.
Since the London Conference, the United States has been working to implement our Strategy, turning written commitments into concrete steps and real action. In February of this year, the United States released an Implementation Plan for the National Strategy.
The Implementation Plan builds upon the Strategy and reaffirms our commitment to work in partnership with other governments, local communities, nongovernmental organizations, and the private sector to end the pernicious illegal trade in wildlife.
The United States recognizes that we, like all nations engaged in this fight, must have strong and effective criminal enforcement to stop those who kill and traffic in protected species. Prosecutors in the United States work closely with investigators around the country and around the world to bring strong cases. We are looking to take the profit out of wildlife trafficking.
In 2014, the United States prosecuted and secured convictions in numerous cases involving international trafficking in protected species, including rhinoceros horn, elephant ivory, and narwhal tusks. Defendants in these cases have received significant jail terms and have forfeited many millions of dollars in cash, gold bars, rhino horn, ivory, and luxury vehicles and jewelry.
In 2014, the United States took several administrative actions to strengthen domestic controls over import, export, and sale of African elephant ivory, rhino horn and other protected species. This included a ban on all commercial imports of elephant ivory. This is just one of many steps that we will take to reduce demand for illegally traded wildlife, demand that continues to escalate and is driving many species to the brink of extinction.
Within the framework of the National Strategy, we are working across the U.S. government to focus our international investments to combat wildlife trafficking in the most strategic and effective way possible.
In 2014 alone, the United States invested approximately $60 million to support international programs aimed at stopping wildlife trafficking. This investment supports a number of important efforts, including: increased use of the Spatial Monitoring and Reporting Tool (SMART) – a system of improved technology for wildlife law enforcement and monitoring – that is now widely used in many nations here in Africa; ecoguards in the northern Republic of Congo, who contributed to more effective cross-border patrols and coordination with Cameroon and the Central African Republic in a key landscape for elephants and great apes; in Kenya, Northern Rangelands Trust community conservancies, which recorded a 22% decrease in illegally killed elephants in FY 2014 as compared to FY 2013; and expansion of programming in wildlife investigative training at the International Law Enforcement Academy (ILEA) Programs in Bangkok and Gaborone, providing training to more than 500 law enforcement officials in 2014. We will continue to invest in such training and capacity-building efforts in 2015.
Over the past year the United States has also maintained our commitment to raise this issue at the highest levels of our diplomatic engagement, in bilateral and multilateral fora. For example, the White House selected wildlife trafficking as one of only six Signature Events featured at the U.S-Africa Leaders’ Summit, held in Washington last August. This event brought together the U.S. Secretary of the Interior with African Heads of State and Foreign and Environment Ministers for a frank dialogue on combating wildlife trafficking.
And, building on our July 2014 Strategic and Economic Dialogue, during the President’s November 2014 trip to China, China and the United States agreed to work together to stop the trade in illegal wildlife products.
At the London Conference, we spoke to the urgent need for a global response to the global wildlife trafficking crisis. We are encouraged that this issue has received increasing and sustained high-level attention, both in the United States and around the world.
Ending the illegal trade in wildlife will require a significant and sustained effort from all nations, whether we are sources, transit points, or destinations for illegally traded wildlife and wildlife products.