Thank you Ginette for inviting me to speak today at this wonderful event. Thank you and the World Wildlife Fund for your inspiration and leadership on this issue, and thank you to the Fuller Symposium for hosting this important event.
The issue of the illegal slaughter and trafficking in wildlife is one that has personally captivated and increasingly enraged me. I appreciate the opportunity to talk with you today about the efforts the State Department is making.
Our aims are: to raise the profile and political will to address wildlife slaughter and trafficking, to raise awareness through our public diplomacy efforts, to enhance enforcement and training action, and to develop strategic partnerships to eliminate wildlife slaughter and trafficking and the criminality it represents.
As you've heard from the experts earlier today - wildlife slaughter and trafficking is escalating in scale and sophistication. It is more organized, more lucrative, and more dangerous than ever before. While the full statistics for 2012 are not in yet, CITES reports three of the five largest annual ivory seizures on record were 2011, 2010, and 2009. Additionally 2012 does not look better. We have seen single incidents where hundreds of elephant are slaughtered at a time. The situation for rhinos is also exceedingly grim.
This has to stop. Massive poaching is compromising the future of some of these species and the associated ecosystems. It is also quite likely a source of financing for transnational criminal networks, and possibly even terrorist groups. This undermines the stability, security, and economic opportunities for communities in many countries around the world. These in turn undermine the ability to govern in nascent democracies or fragile states.
During our trip to Africa this summer, Secretary Clinton and I heard firsthand about the challenges South Africa that is facing. And before I joined her in South Africa, I received similar information in Botswana and Namibia, although so far they have not encountered the kind of slaughter now taking place in South Africa and other parts of that continent.
Many other African countries are dealing with major slaughter and border incursions as well. Many are having to militarize their national parks in order to defend these animals and maintain control over these vast lands. The poachers have access to more sophisticated tools, like night-vision goggles, AK-47s, and helicopters, leaving park rangers often outmanned and outgunned. There have been retaliatory killings of park rangers for protecting these animals. Upwards of one hundred park rangers are killed annually. With the prices for elephant ivory and rhino horn soaring, the financial incentive to commit these crimes is growing. The high prices in turn fuel the engine of corruption that keeps the illegal enterprise thriving.
Hearing these problems from the highest levels of Southern African leadership - following similar alerts from NGOs with whom we have spoken over the last couple of years, including, of course, WWF- were the wake-up calls that led to unprecedented levels of attention at the State Department.
Secretary Clinton and I returned from the trip seized with this issue, and both of us were inspired by what we heard and really angered by these horrible criminal acts. We and our colleagues developed the "Conservation Matters" Strategy at the State Department, which lays out a four pronged approach.
First, we are working to raise the level of political attention and political will to combat wildlife slaughter and trafficking through our diplomatic engagement in multilateral and in bilateral relationships. Quite frankly, this issue so far has not garnered the appropriate attention at the highest levels.
At APEC in Vladivostok in September 2012, we were successful in getting language into the Leaders' Statement and the outcome document. President Obama and Secretary Clinton will also look to advance this issue in the East Asia Summit meeting next week, November 19, in Phnom Penh, Cambodia. In addition to the formal multilateral engagement, Under Secretary Maria Otero, for Civilian Security, Democracy, and Human Rights, and I recently hosted a roundtable with many ambassadors here in Washington. We used this dialogue to identify our common challenges and to look at efforts that governments can take to combat the trafficking. This was a good first step in looking at how harmonizing and coordinating our actions can address this problem.
And, as many of you know, last week, Secretary Clinton hosted “Wildlife Trafficking and Conservation: A Call to Action.” Secretary Clinton appealed for governments, the private sector, and NGOs to work together urgently to eliminate wildlife trafficking.
So, as you can see, we are making good headway in using our diplomatic engagement to advance the political will to address this issue. We will continue to advance these issues through the CITES 40th Anniversary in March, and beyond. But clearly this is just the beginning.
Our second goal is to raise public awareness. Stemming from the Secretary's Event, I have had the opportunity to meet with press from a variety of international media outlets. This will help to get our message out to many audiences in Asia and Africa. I know many of you have been doing this for a long time.
To further public awareness, we have designated December 4 as "Wildlife Conservation Day." We are asking our embassies around the world to host events and to use all of the tools at their disposal, including social media, to raise awareness with partner governments, NGOs, and the private sector. I will be in Beijing, and will work with our partners there and our embassy to do several events, including one with the Chinese NGOs, as part of Wildlife Conservation Day.
We are looking to the youth to take on this issue and use social media tools to spread the message that consuming endangered wildlife parts is not a “cool” thing to do, or the right or moral thing to do. Social status, in some cases, is driving upswings in consumption - we need to address this demand head on. We need to make sure that people realize that it is not acceptable – and indeed, highly immoral - to buy and consume these products.
The recent NGO survey suggesting that 70% of Chinese consumers think that elephants are not slaughtered for their ivory is shocking – and needs to be corrected.
There are many other misconceptions out there that are quite horrendous, such as - rhino horn can cure cancer. We must address these through education and awareness campaigns.
Our efforts here are a good first step, but we really need trusted local voices to amplify this message in high-demand countries. We will work with other countries to do this.
Our third goal is to strengthen law enforcement capacity through training. We have a number of successful existing efforts underway, and we are building on these. We provide multilateral, regional law enforcement training through the International Law Enforcement Academy (ILEA) in Gabarone and Bangkok. We also provide bilateral training to improve investigation and prosecution of wildlife crimes. The Wildlife Enforcement Networks (WENs) are good models for regional cooperation on enforcement and prosecution. Central Africa, and the Horn of Africa are taking promising steps to build up this type of cooperation to improve enforcement.
Last week, we committed $100,000 to support the establishment of a global system of regional wildlife enforcement networks. This effort will leverage the respective strengths of each affiliate to improve communication, enforcement and prosecutorial capabilities. It will also help to reduce demand for illegally traded wildlife and wildlife products. We believe the Global System should have a strong technological component, taking advantage of new and innovative technologies to improve communication and information sharing. These are just some of the programs we have underway, and we will look for opportunities to enhance these and other efforts.
This brings me to the final aspect of our strategy - working with partners. We support the expansion and strengthening of existing partnerships, such as the Coalition Against Wildlife Trafficking (CAWT), to engage governments, civil society, and the private sector to combat wildlife crime. We are working with the transportation industry, NGO’s, and relevant organizations to develop best practices to prevent the illegal transport of wildlife and wildlife products. We look forward to other partnerships moving forward.
For me, protecting wildlife is a very personal issue and a deeply moral issue. I spent a year in Kenya and Tanzania as a graduate student, where I experienced the spectacular beauty of wild animals in magnificent national parks such as Amboseli, Maasai Mara, Serengeti, and Ngorongoro. That's why I'm especially appalled - on a very personal level - by the horrendous pace, scale, and violence associated with wildlife crime.
We all, collectively, share a moral and political responsibility to protect the worlds’ wildlife, to be good stewards of our planet, and to support the development and security of countries suffering from wildlife slaughter and trafficking. That's why wildlife conservation and anti-trafficking are foreign policy priorities for the Department of State. Our governments and citizens cannot afford to stand idle while poachers and wildlife traffickers hunt down and kill elephants, rhinos, tigers, bears, or any threatened species.
We need to show collective outrage against wildlife crimes to galvanize bold, comprehensive, worldwide action. Let’s call it what it is – organized crime against these majestic animals, against dedicated wildlife rangers, the many countries where these animals live, and against future generations. None of us is doing enough. Secretary Clinton's meeting last week was a call to action to work harder, and to work together.
We can put an end to wildlife crime by supporting the efforts of governments whose animals and rangers fall victim to poachers: by strengthening and strictly enforcing laws against poaching and wildlife trafficking; by educating our citizens about the horrors of poaching; and by encouraging them to stop buying ivory, rhino horns, animal skins, exotic birds, and other endangered animals and their products.
Anything less than bold and comprehensive efforts will result in further decimation of nature's magnificent legacy to our planet. That would be the world's loss and our generation's shame.