U.S. Takes New Steps To Combat Wildlife Trafficking

The loss of Zimbabwe’s Cecil the Lion has dominated recent news coverage. What has received less attention is that five elephants were killed in Tsavo West National Park in Kenya as well last week.

These incidents raise the question of how to best protect treasured wildlife. Poaching is a global problem and a focused effort is required to combat it, even when it's not in the headlines. And that's what we're committed to do.

Poachers kill one elephant about every 15 minutes, and it's led northern white rhinos to the brink of extinction. Poaching doesn't just hurt animals, but everyday people. Ivory and other wildlife goods fuel a network of wildlife traffickers and armed groups that create instability around the world.  

A bull elephant, can be seen with his collar containing a sim card in the Ol Pejeta conservancy near Mt. Kenya, September 26, 2008 [AP Photo]

President Obama is making sure that, when it comes to ending poaching, the United States takes the lead.  While in Kenya last month, he announced the latest in a series of American steps to stop this deadly practice -- a new proposed rule, which would prohibit most interstate commerce of African elephant ivory and beef up restrictions on commercial exports. Put together with other actions under the President's 2013 Executive Order, the proposed rule would create a near-total ban on domestic commercial trade of African elephant ivory.  

The President also announced other new steps to support international efforts against poaching:

  • $7 million in annual assistance to Gabon, part of a five-year partnership to secure the largest remaining population of forest elephants in Africa
  • $800,000 to protect wildlife in East Africa, including a three-year wildlife poaching and trafficking assessment program in Kenya, conducted in partnership with the International Union for the Conservation of Nature and TRAFFIC
  • $300,000 to study illicit financial flows related to wildlife trafficking in Eastern and Southern Africa, and provide training to fill gaps identified by the study
  • New international wildlife law enforcement attachés in Botswana and Tanzania
  • Continued support to train international conservation law enforcement officers at the International Law Enforcement Academy in Botswana

Building on the work of the Advisory Council to the Presidential Task Force on Combating Wildlife Trafficking, the White House also announced the “U.S. Wildlife Trafficking Alliance”, a new coalition of major companies, non-profit organizations, and foundations dedicated to reducing U.S. demand for ivory, rhino horn, and other illegal wildlife products. The White House will convene leaders from the Alliance this fall, and we look forward to engaging the Alliance to raise awareness, change behavior, and reduce demand for illegally traded wildlife.

A female northern white rhino Najin walks in her pen where she is being kept for observation at the Ol Pejeta Conservancy in Kenya [AP Photo]

The fight against poaching doesn't stop at our borders.  Solving this issue means engaging partners around the globe, especially when it comes to stopping illegal trade in wildlife. The Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) -- a deal with eleven other countries in the biodiverse Asia-Pacific -- could prove to be a significant step forward in the fight. TPP promises to put in place environmental standards that expand partner countries' obligations to enforce their own conservation laws and step up enforcement on illegal wildlife trafficking.  And to further that effort, we will work directly with partner countries to provide the technical knowhow needed for enforcement. 

The Administration's work on this issue isn't done. The Presidential Task Force on Wildlife Trafficking will continue to lead our efforts to tackle wildlife trafficking at home and abroad. The Cabinet will also continue to engage --  for example, Secretary of the Interior Jewell recently returned from China and Vietnam, and will be traveling to Africa in the coming months, to continue her focus on this global crisis.     

About the Author: Jeff Zients is the Director of the National Economic Council and Assistant to the President for Economic Policy. Christy Goldfuss is Managing Director at the White House Council on Environmental Quality.
Editor's Note: This entry originally appeared on the White House Blog.
For more information:




Miss P.
California, USA
August 7, 2015
There is only one way to end large animal trafficking, poaching and big game hunting. Arm drones and evaporate anyone who gets within a mile of animals. It's really pretty simple. Drones can remain in the air for 20 or more hours. They can be fitted with cameras and armed with guns that are remotely fired on demand. A few hundred missing hunters and poachers, and trafficking will stop.
john r.
New York, USA
August 9, 2015

I hate to see wild animals being killed for fun. A couple of days ago, I saw a female hunter showing of her giraffe kill. Are you serious?

How can someone kill something like this. This world is messed up.

Cathy P.
New Jersey, USA
September 10, 2015

My thoughts on this issue, especially the carnivore wildlife animals is they are dangerous and would not hesitate to kill a human if given the chance. People miss the key word in the word wildlife is wild. They are wild animals. Most of these animals kill people in the local villages in these countries. In the US we think of these animals as zoo animals only and that is not the case. I know someone that used to live in Kenya and he was not upset about these issues because he has had family killed by a lion. I find it amazing that people get more upset about a wild animal being killed more than people being killed. That is wrong.

I do understand that trafficking is a problem and that there needs to be some control because it would be a travesty if any animal became extinct due to this practice.

Patrick W.
Maryland, USA
August 20, 2015
You could also use a tracking device on hunters that violate our laws , so we can track them like we do the animals they hunt. That way we will know when they are hunting near a tracked animal. You could also make hunters wear some kind of tacking devise if their hunting in an area with endangered animals in it. It would also make so people don't shoot each other by accident, not knowing they are hunting in the same area.
Patrick W.
Maryland, USA
August 20, 2015
Also, tracking devises would help people that get in trouble or lost when their in the forest/woods. Rangers could find them if something went wrong. So, it would be good for safety reasons also. :)
A male lion looks out over the savannah at dusk in Nairobi National Park in Kenya
August 6, 2015


Latest Stories

January 19, 2017

What We Got Right

With a new administration taking office this week, it is natural to assess the inheritance it will receive from the… more