New Federal and International Measures Protect Endangered Species

The last week has seen major national and international developments to address wildlife trafficking, and states are positioned to take even stronger action. On September 21, the U.S. House of Representatives unanimously passed the END Wildlife Trafficking Act (HR 2494).  The bill addresses global poaching and illegal trafficking of elephant ivory by identifying nations that are major sources, transit points or consumers of wildlife trafficking products; elevating wildlife trafficking to the same offense level as drug and arms trafficking, making it a liable offense for money laundering; supporting wildlife enforcement networks; and supporting the training of rangers on the ground. Sponsor and House Foreign Affairs Committee Chair Royce (R-CA) issued a press release on the bill’s passage.

In addition, on September 26 the IUCN issued a report that found that mainly due to poaching, elephant declines are the worst in 25 years, and that up to 111,000 elephants have been slaughtered in the last decade. Finally, at the 17th CITES Conference of the Parties being held in Johannesburg, a coalition of African nations led by Kenya has proposed transfer of the elephant populations of Botswana, Namibia, South Africa and Zimbabwe from Appendix II to Appendix I. CITES Appendix I listing provides full protection from international trade, and all species of the pangolin were just added to that list.

Individual states can still do more to restrict wildlife trafficking within their borders. These new developments highlight the urgency of addressing illegal wildlife trafficking of elephant ivory, rhino horn and other endangered species parts and products, but they do not restrict intrastate trade in these items. The President’s National Strategy for Combating Wildlife Trafficking notes the importance of state action to restrict trade in endangered species parts and products.  Five states (CA, HI, NJ, NY, and WA) have passed such laws, and others are attempting to follow suit.

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