Trafficking in wildlife is an international crisis. Recent survey results show the Tanzanian elephant population has dropped by 62 percent in the past five years. Poachers killed more than 1,200 rhinos in South Africa in 2014, a 21 percent increase from 2013. Worldwide, lions have declined 42 percent over the past 21 years; in many countries they have declined 60 percent. Pangolins and other less well-known but equally endangered species are in dramatic decline due to poaching and illegal trade. We are at a tipping point -- individuals and governments must act now to save species before they become extinct. This week, the United States, and the United Nations, took important steps to do just that.
— US Mission to the UN (@USUN) July 30, 2015
The United States co-sponsored a United Nations resolution with 85 other countries on Tackling Illicit Trafficking in Wildlife that the United Nations General Assembly approved on July 30. This resolution urges UN member states to take decisive steps to eradicate the illegal trade in wildlife, to make wildlife trafficking a serious crime, and to reduce demand by using targeted strategies to influence consumer behavior. The resolution is the result of concerted multilateral diplomacy by the United States and other countries, and will help strengthen the global effort to combat wildlife trafficking.
During his recent visit to Kenya, President Obama announced proposed regulatory changes to address the U.S. role in the illegal ivory trade. Once implemented, these proposed changes, in addition to actions already taken, will create a near-total ban on the commercial trade of African elephant ivory in the United States. The revised regulations would permit only very narrow exceptions to the ban, such as for certified antique ivory, and ivory in very small quantities in pre-existing manufactured items such as musical instruments.
We are taking action at both a national and an international level to stop wildlife trafficking, but what can concerned individuals do to make a difference? Ensure that you are not part of the problem. Don’t buy products made from endangered species!
To learn more, follow the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Oceans and International Environmental and Scientific Affairs on Facebook and Twitter. Together, we can end this crisis and keep healthy populations of elephants, rhinos, and other magnificent animals in the wild for generations to come.
About the author: Judith G. Garber is the Acting Assistant Secretary for the Bureau of Oceans and International Environmental and Scientific Affairs.