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Obama issues executive order on wildlife trafficking

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President Obama acted Monday to increase his administration's efforts to prevent trafficking in wildlife, including great apes, tigers, elephants, and rhinoceroses.

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Obama, traveling in Tanzania, issued an wide-ranging executive order that will have the effect of fortifying African government efforts to prevent and punish poaching.

“Wildlife trafficking is a multi-billion dollar illicit business that is decimating Africa’s iconic animal populations,” a White House statement said. “Many species—most notably elephants and rhinoceroses—now face the risk of significant decline or even extinction. Like other forms of illicit trade, wildlife trafficking undermines security across nations.”

The executive order:

  • Establishes a Presidential Task Force on Wildlife Trafficking and an Advisory Council on Wildlife Trafficking;
  • Provides $10 million in assistance to African countries, particularly Kenya, South Africa, and sub-Saharan nations, for use in preventing wildlife trafficking;
  • Orders the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, an agency of the Department of Interior, to to strengthen regulations aimed at preventing poaching and smuggling of wildlife and wildlife artifacts into the United States; and
  • Assigns a USFWS employee to the American embassy in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania to support that nation's work on a wildlife security strategy.​

The executive order is the latest in a series of actions by the Obama administration intended to increase world focus on poaching of iconic species native to Africa.

Former secretary of state Hillary Rodham Clinton announced in Nov. 2012 that the State Department would include wildlife trafficking on its foreign policy agenda and work with other nations to develop a global plan for increased wildlife conservation.

Obama noted that his action is necessary to help preserve the uniqueness of Africa.

“The entire world has a stake in making sure we preserve Africa's beauty for future generations,” he said. “[Wildlife] is an issue inseparable from Africa’s identity.”

Patrick Bergin, chief executive officer at the African Wildlife Foundation, said that the administration's action was necessary, considering the "war" now underway to save the great apes, elephants, and rhinoceroses of Africa.

"It’s a war that requires the United States and other governments to stand up and stand together for the sake of Africa’s future,” he said.

Illegal killing of wildlife in Africa has reached historically high levels. Elephant poaching hit a record in 2011, according to the International Conservation Caucus Foundation, while rhino slaughters are also up more than 1,000 percent in the past decade.

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