In a rare example of bipartisanship, the U.S. Congress has passed the Global Anti-Poaching Act and animal welfare groups are now celebrating.
The House of Representatives has just given its blessing to a bill that aims to stop wildlife traffickers in their tracks by helping anti-poaching efforts on the front lines, hiking penalties for those convicted of the scourge and using greater diplomatic pressure the curb the problem.
The bill, sponsored by Republican Edward Royce, and cosponsored by 107 other members of Congress (43 Republicans, 64 Democrats) doesn’t mince words.
- Poaching and the illicit trade in endangered and threatened wildlife are among the most lucrative criminal activities worldwide, worth an estimated $7 to $10 billion annually.
- Poaching and wildlife trafficking have escalated in scale, sophistication and violence, risking the potential extinction of some of the world’s most iconic species.
- Wildlife poaching and trafficking threaten elephants, rhinoceros, and tigers greatly, but also have devastating impact on a number of other species, including sharks, great apes, and turtles.
- Researchers conservatively estimate that some 22,000 African elephants were poached in 2012 alone, leaving the current population of elephants around 400,000, down from approximately 1.3 million in 1979.
- An average of 14 rhinos were killed annually by poachers in South Africa between 1990 and 2005, but more than 1,200 rhinos were poached in South Africa alone in 2014.
- Fewer than 3,200 tigers remain in the wild and these remaining wild tigers are under heavy threat of poaching for their skins, bones and other body parts.
And on and on goes the list of horrors it aims to end.
Now, the U.S. Senate still needs to pass the legislation. But animal welfare groups applauded the news.
Jamie Rappaport Clark, president and chief executive officer of Defenders of Wildlife President, responded in a statement:
“This legislation cracks down on traffickers smuggling imperiled wildlife and wildlife products into this country and will give park rangers in other nations the tools they need to protect elephants, rhinos, and other wildlife from poaching. Wildlife trafficking is an international crisis and we lose thousands of birds, mammals, reptiles and more around the world every day to this avoidable tragedy. We must do everything we can to make it harder for the illegal wildlife trade to flourish, both abroad and here in the United States. The time has come to close our ports of entry and shut down domestic markets to wildlife trafficking and the Global Anti-Poaching Act takes a huge step to do just that.”
The Humane Society of the United States also issued a statement today.
“This bipartisan bill provides additional tools and resources to curb illegal killing of some of the world’s most iconic and at-risk species and trafficking in their parts,” Wayne Pacelle, head of the Humane Society of the United States, said in a statement. “Poaching is a global crisis, and the world needs U.S. leadership on the issue.”
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