The United States is a country with a deep and abiding conservationist tradition. We rallied to the defense of our bald eagle and the American bison. We have fought to save tuna, salmon, sharks, tigers, whales, and many other endangered species.
But protecting wildlife isn’t just an American value. We – all of us – have a special responsibility to future generations to live out our caretaker responsibilities. That is why we join with the international community to celebrate World Wildlife Day.
How shocking and shameful it would be if we did nothing while majestic species like the wild elephant or the rhino were criminally slaughtered into extinction. How tragic it would be to no longer see the wonder in a child’s eyes when she glimpses a lion or marvels at the size of an elephant or the length of a giraffe’s neck.
Today our shared natural heritage is threatened, and time is not on our side. Sophisticated criminal gangs are decimating majestic animals such as the elephant, rhino, sea turtle, and dozens of other species. The profits from this ugly, criminal enterprise fund groups with links to transnational terrorism and undermine regional and global stability.
The scope and lethality of the poaching industry is great, which makes even greater our obligation to get this right.
That’s why, just last month, President Obama announced his National Strategy for Combating Wildlife Trafficking. Nations of the world have joined together to conserve wildlife and end trafficking, and more and more countries have shown their support by destroying their stockpiles of illicit ivory.
Togo sent a strong message to the world last month, when authorities made multiple seizures of illegal ivory, totaling more than four tons.
Just last week, the Prime Minister of Vietnam announced a new national directive to combat the illicit trade in wildlife parts. We know that when the world acts in concert, change happens. And make no mistake: the United States is committed to that change.
World Wildlife Day is more than a day we mark on the calendar. It is a commitment that we must renew every day to preserve our shared natural heritage now and for future generations.