July has been a busy month for elephant news, abroad and in the United States, beginning with President Obama’s July 1st Executive Order calling for monetary and technical assistance in the fight against poaching and wildlife trafficking (click here). While not exclusively devoted to elephants, the current poaching problem provided the impetus behind and focus of the Order. As outlined in the Fact Sheet, a new Presidential Task Force on Wildlife Trafficking will develop a strategy to oversee the program. The PR value of this is as important as the actual financial and technical aid as other G8 countries are being called upon to follow the U.S.’s lead.
Cynics may question the impact all this will have given the sometimes glacial-like pace of action through task force and talk. We need to keep the fire lit under our public officials to do even more. One way you can help is to contact members of the U.S. Congressional International Conservation Caucus. It is the second largest, bi-partisan caucus and has a special focus on the African poaching crisis (click here).
Also, we need to get our own house in order. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service just released results of “Operation Wild Web”—a coordinated undercover law enforcement operation which sought to bring illegal wildlife traffickers to justice. Agents and volunteers searched marketplaces, forums and classified ads on the Internet for suspicious wildlife sales. The results were astounding: after just 14 days of tracking, “Operation Wild Web” netted 154 “buy/busts”—30 involving Federal wildlife crimes and 124 for violations of State laws.
And, on the same day President Obama announced his Executive Order, an ex-Defense attaché to the American Embassy in Nairobi was arrested trying to board a flight to Amsterdam. He had two pounds of ivory objects (jewelry and carvings). He pleaded guilty and paid a meager fine of $350. As the New York Times said: “His arrest meant that a former official of a government dedicated to stopping the poaching that has threatened the very existence of Kenya’s elephants was engaged in ivory trading himself.” We have work to do!
Go to “In the News” to see more headlines from July.