As prepared for delivery
Thank you, Keshav. Also thank you to Bob Zoellick and Prime Minister Putin for spearheading the St. Petersburg Declaration.
I am particularly pleased to speak with you on this topic as I have always had a soft spot for the "big cats." Years ago, when I was finishing my dissertation in East Africa, I spent a few months as a photo guide and had the opportunity to see lions in their natural habitat and it is an experience I have always treasured. Years later, I was able to visit India and spend time visiting the tigers in Bengal. These are truly magnificent animals that we must work together to protect.
It’s a pleasure to be here today to celebrate the anniversary of the Tiger Summit in St. Petersburg and the many accomplishments of the range states and the Global Tiger Initiative throughout the past year. The United States is proud to be part of these impressive and unprecedented efforts to save the roughly 3,200 remaining wild tigers. And we’re committed to work towards the goal of doubling wild populations by the next year of the tiger in 2022.
Over one hundred years ago, President Theodore Roosevelt said that, “The conservation of natural resources is the fundamental problem. Unless we solve that problem it will avail us little to solve all others.” This sentiment holds true today. Conservation remains a fundamental value of the American people and one that merits global attention. That’s why we’re working in many areas and with many partners to promote sustainable development and best practices for using natural resources.
Wild tigers—among the most iconic of creatures—are at the center of much of our work to conserve biodiversity and ecosystems. The United States has funded many efforts to conserve wild tigers in their natural habitats. Over the past 14 years, the U.S. Congress has garnered bipartisan support to provide over $11 million for wild tiger conservation programs, including nearly $2 million in 2010. And, through our bilateral assistance, the United States Agency for International Development provided over $10 million for conservation work throughout Asia in 2010, much of this work will help protect key tiger habitats.
In addition to supporting the best science-based approaches to management, we—all of us—need to end the illegal trade in wildlife. The United States has provided political and financial support to establishing a global system of regional wildlife enforcement networks, including the ASEAN Wildlife Enforcement Network and the South Asian Wildlife Enforcement Network. We are committed to working closely with the International Consortium on Combating Wildlife Crime as well as INTERPOL’s new Project Predator, which specifically targets illegal trade in tigers. We will continue to look for innovative ways to achieve our conservation goals.
One angle we’re actively pursuing is the inclusion of strong environmental commitments in our free trade agreements. For example, in the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) negotiations, we’re discussing proposals on new conservation issues, such as incorporating Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) and sustainable forest management. TPP has the potential to be a model, not only for the Asia Pacific, but for future trade agreements.
In addition, in the United States, we have strict civil and criminal penalties to protect both plants and wildlife through Lacey Act—which, I should note was signed into law in 1900. In addition to covering the illegal trade of wildlife, the Act has been amended in recent years to help promote the legal trade of wood products by increasing risks for illegal transactions, and influencing choices that suppliers and consumers make about forest products. In Russia, for instance, high-value timber species provide key habitat for threatened species such as the Siberian Tiger and Far Eastern Leopard. Reducing illegal logging in the Russian Far East reduces pressure on these tiger habitats.
We’re here today because the poaching and illegal trade in tigers diminishes us all. It undermines our global conservation efforts and threatens the economic and social fabric of local communities. I’m delighted to see the progress that we’ve made thus far, but more needs to be done. To save the tiger, and meet our collective goal of doubling the number in the wild by 2022, we need to work together to redouble our efforts. This includes all of us—governments, civil society, and the private sector. I hope today’s event will continue to build these bridges. Thank you.