I have just returned from my first visit to East and Southern Africa. Being in Tanzania, Kenya, and South Africa gave me the opportunity to see first-hand the harm done by poaching and wildlife traffickers, as well as the progress being made to stop this insidious business.
The numbers are staggering. Poaching and illegal trafficking of African rhino horn and elephant ivory is at the highest level in 25 years. An estimated 20,000 elephants were slaughtered in 2013 alone -- far exceeding the elephants’ birth rate.
Three rhinos on average are being killed daily, bringing rhino poaching to record levels. Wildlife trafficking is insidious not only because it robs us all of majestic creatures in the name of cash. It is insidious because it destabilizes countries, robbing people of sustainable livelihoods derived from tourism while contributing to the spread of zoonotic diseases.
In Tanzania, we made major progress on combatting wildlife trafficking. We worked with the Tanzanian government and NGO community to encourage eight East African countries (Burundi, Kenya, Malawi, Mozambique, South Sudan, Tanzania, Uganda, and Zambia) to sign the Arusha Declaration. This regional agreement commits the countries to a 20-point plan to work together across national boundaries to combat illegal trafficking of wildlife, timber, fish and other natural resources; to open corridors for migration; and to coordinate intelligence on law enforcement. If implemented, the agreement could mark a significant turning point in containing poaching and preserving habitat.
Our embassies in these eight countries will be working closely with the signatories of the Arusha Declaration, as well as with the NGO and business communities, as we translate the agreement into concrete action. We are going to do everything we can to support regional cooperation against wildlife trafficking.
At the Arusha summit, I announced that the State Department’s Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs will provide an additional $15 million to support efforts to combat wildlife trafficking. Those funds will provide law enforcement technical assistance to enhance investigative, legislative, prosecutorial, and judicial capacity building. And we are joining with WildAid on an innovative media campaign to heighten the public awareness that wildlife trafficking is not just illegal -- it is wrong. We will be working in Africa as well as continuing our work with China and other countries in Asia to address the demand for these products. Time is growing short. Together, we must stop the killing at the source. We must disrupt the transport and shipment of these products, and we must eliminate the demand.