The Executive Order on combatting wildlife trafficking (E.O. 13648) established a Task Force to develop and implement a national strategy that curbs illegal trade and poaching of wildlife. The strategy will include measures that provide effective support for anti-poaching activities, coordination of regional law enforcement efforts, development and support of effective legal enforcement mechanisms, and strategies to reduce illegal trade and consumer demand driving illegal trade.
An Advisory Council was appointed to advise the Task Force with the national strategy. On December 16th 2013 the Advisory Council held their first public meeting.
The council established three subcommittees to focus on specific areas of work: Enforcement, Communications/Advocacy, and Legal Reform. Although formal mandates were not provided to each subcommittee at this meeting, topics within each area were discussed.
Discussions of trade and enforcement dominated the meeting. There was disagreement among council members between a possible limited moratorium and a complete trade ban of elephant ivory and rhino horn in the United States. Nonetheless, those in support of a moratorium, which would be limited in time and include exemptions, generally recognize that specific types of trade have conservation benefits to protected species. Those in support of a ban wish to make it illegal to trade any item that contains ivory, or horn, forever, because it is easier to enforce.
The trade debate went further by discussing what should be raised at future meetings of the Convention of International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES). Some members of the council argued that the United States should set an example at CITES by banning trade in ivory and horn, and possibly other wildlife species. This argument suggests that the convention has failed to conserve and secure species listed on the CITES appendices, namely elephant and rhinoceros. However, other council members believe that CITES is an effective Convention, but that it is the responsibility of individual countries to handle enforcement of trade regulations, wildlife crime penalties, and to address poaching — not CITES.
Additionally, the Advisory Council allotted time for the public to offer comments. A strong majority of the comments were representative of animal rights and welfare organizations, all in support of the maximum safeguard for wildlife, regardless of cost or practicality. Few comments were provided by the sustainable use community.
SCI Foundation provided a hunter-conservationist perspective to the Advisory Council. We suggested that the Task Force improve collaboration with African governments and the hunting community who already have existing frameworks working to curb poaching and trafficking of wildlife.
Time is running short on deadlines. The draft national strategy is supposed to be presented to the White House on 28 December, 2013. The finalized national strategy is expected in January or February, 2014. Implementation of the strategy is expected to initiate once the final strategy is approved. Overall, these deadlines are very ambitious and we will see if the work can be accomplished in this time frame. What specific strategies are being proposed is still unknown, but SCI Foundation hopes a non-partial, science-based, collaborative plan is derived. Stay tuned.
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