Press Briefing with Dan Foote, Senior U.S. Department of State official covering wildlife trafficking and transnational crime.

September 7, 2017


Africa Regional Media Hub

Press Briefing with

Mr. Dan Foote, Deputy Assistant Secretary of State,

Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs

Via Teleconference from Washington, D.C.

September 7, 2017

 

Audio links

English

French

Portuguese

French/English

Portuguese/English
 

MODERATOR: Ladies and gentlemen, thank you for standing by. Welcome to the conference on Combatting Wildlife Trafficking. I'd like to turn the conference over to your moderator, Ms. Tiffany Jackson-Zunker. Please go ahead.

MODERATOR: Thank you, and good afternoon to everyone from the U.S. Department of State’s Africa Regional Media Hub. I would like to welcome our participants who have dialed in from across the continent and media gathered at our various missions in Africa. Today we are joined by Mr. Dan Foote, Deputy Assistant Secretary, Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs. Mr. Foote will discuss wildlife trafficking in Africa and U.S. efforts to halt this bloody crime. Mr. Foote is speaking to us from Washington D.C. We will begin with remarks from Mr. Foote, and then we will open it up to your questions. For those of you listening to the call in English, please press *1 on your phones to join the question queue. If you are using a speakerphone, you may need to pick up the handset before entering *1. For those of you listening to the call in French and Portuguese, we have received some of your questions, submitted in advance by email, and you may continue to submit your questions in English via email to AFMediaHub@state.gov. If you would like to join the conversation on Twitter, please use the hashtag #StopWildlifeTrafficking and follow us on @AfricaMediaHub and @StateINL. Today’s call is on the record and will last approximately 45 minutes. And with that, I will turn it over to Mr. Foote.

MR. FOOTE: Thank you very much, Tiffany, and good afternoon to all of you.  It’s great to join everyone on this call today to discuss wildlife trafficking, which is a priority for both the U.S. government and certainly the U.S. Department of State.  Wildlife trafficking has devastating impacts on ecosystems and societies: it pushes iconic species to the brink of extinction, restricts economic development, threatens security, and undermines the rule of law.  Throughout Africa, we’ve seen that this criminal trade fuels corruption and is linked to armed groups that create instability.  Unfortunately, wildlife trafficking is often viewed solely as a conservation issue. It isn’t. The truth is that wildlife trafficking is also a serious crime, and often a violent one, which fattens the wallets of transnational criminal syndicates. Illegal wildlife products are among the top four most lucrative trafficked goods and the trade is estimated at tens of billions of dollars annually.

The State Department’s Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs, or INL, for whom I work, oversees programs to combat wildlife trafficking in over 30 countries worldwide, including in Africa, Southeast Asia, and Latin America. We strive to help partner nations improve their enforcement; investigative, prosecutorial, and legislative capacities; and cooperation within and across governments. To date, our training efforts have reached over 1,000 justice sector officials worldwide who combat wildlife trafficking, including conservation law enforcement officers. Our programs highlight the expertise we have developed while working with the international law enforcement community on issues like the drug trade, for the past 40 years. INL takes a criminal-justice approach to wildlife trafficking, focusing efforts around halting poaching and trafficking and lowering demand.  

Our work on the African continent spans multiple sub-regions, including East, Central, and Southern Africa.

In South Africa, we have provided survival, surveillance, and investigative equipment to national and provincial parks in seven provinces. This includes housing for Kruger National Park’s Canine units and night vision capabilities for ranger units to patrol after dark, when the majority of poaching takes place.

We also work with the Kenya Wildlife Service and rural communities to provide training to community rangers on topics including monitoring wildlife and illegal activities, weapon safety, field craft, and communication. Through these partnerships, community rangers are building relationships with various Kenyan law enforcement agencies.

Our work also includes cutting-edge forensics work: we support DNA forensics research on ivory seizures, which has resulted in significantly improved intelligence on ivory trafficking. This has augmented the ability of law enforcement to trace the criminal networks involved in this illicit trade.

Our efforts abroad are producing results: on August 21, just last month, at the airport in Entebbe, the Uganda Wildlife Authority canine detection team, supported by an INL-grantee, the American Wildlife Foundation [correction: African Wildlife Foundation], located and seized a bag containing 12 rhino horns weighing around 51 pounds and estimated to be worth approximately $1.5 million. The suspect, a Vietnamese national, was promptly arrested despite attempting to bribe law enforcement in front of the canine team as he was being arrested.

The United States government will continue to lead global efforts to end the gruesome trafficking of elephants, rhinos, and other endangered species.  We stand ready to work together with more partner nations in this effort.  

Thank you once again for joining me, I think I’ll stop there, and I’m now happy to take your questions.

MODERATOR: Thank you Mr. Foote. We will now begin with the question and answer portion of today's call. For those asking questions, please state your name and affiliation and limit yourself to one question related to the topic of today's briefing, wildlife trafficking in Africa and U.S. efforts to halt it. Our first question will go to the listening party at the U.S. Embassy in Kigali, Rwanda. Operator, can you open the lines, please?

MEDIA: My name is Jean Pierre from the U.S. Embassy in Kigali, and I work with Igihe, a local online website, and my question is: you said that you work with the African governments to fight animal trafficking. Is there any particular partnership you have with the Rwanda government to fight animal trafficking and poaching here in Rwanda? Thank you.

MR. FOOTE: Bonjour, Jean Pierre, et merci, thank you. Currently, in Africa, we have country-specific programs in Kenya, Tanzania, Botswana, Namibia, and South Africa, and we expect to expand into Malawi and Zambia this year. So these are larger, country-specific efforts. That being said, we do a lot of regional work across Africa that does include Rwanda. We have an International Law Enforcement Academy in Gaborone, Botswana, where we train law enforcement and judicial officials from around the continent, and specifically offer courses on how to best investigate and prosecute wildlife trafficking crimes. We also work with the UN Office on Drugs and Crime and Interpol and some other international organizations to enhance regional cooperation across the continent. Thank you.

MODERATOR: Thank you very much. Our next question will come from the listening party at the U.S. Embassy in Windhoek, Namibia. Operator, if you could open the line, please?

MEDIA: Good afternoon, this is Bianca speaking, from the Namibia Broadcasting Corporation. My question is, what are your views on the attempts Namibia has made so far in addressing poaching in the country?

MR. FOOTE: Thank you very much, Bianca. Namibia has been one of the more successful partners that we’ve worked with on the continent to date. INL is working closely with the Namibian police and the Ministry of Environment and Tourism to implement a comprehensive set of on-the-ground anti-poaching interventions and established an early-warning system to mitigate poaching across Namibia. We also provide equipment and technical advice to support the rapid commissioning and operation of Namibia’s newly-built anti-poaching school in Waterberg National Park. While obviously much work remains to be done in Namibia and across the continent, we are pleased with efforts to date and look forward to continuing our close partnership with our friends in Namibia.

MODERATOR: Thank you. Our next question will go to the listening party in Malabo, Equatorial Guinea. Operator, can you open the line, please?

MEDIA: [French]

MODERATOR: Excusez-moi. Hello, I’m terribly sorry. The French questions do need to be submitted in English. I’m going to allow the embassy there to prepare them and send them through. I apologize for that. In the meantime, we’ll go back to the U.S. Embassy in Kigali, please. Operator, if you could open that line?

MEDIA: [Journalist Jean Pierre] Yes, I wanted just to ask how much estimated money that the U.S. spends on helping the African governments to fight animal trafficking. Thank you.

MR. FOOTE: Thank you very much for that question. Last year, or this year I should say, our Congress allocated to the Department of State INL $50 million to combat wildlife trafficking, of which a percentage probably slightly over 50% has been allocated towards working on the African continent. In addition to that, U.S. Agency for International Development - or USAID - also works on other angles of wildlife trafficking, and they also bring tens of millions of dollars to help combat this issue in Africa. Sorry I can’t be more exact, but that gives you some kind of concept for the total magnitude.

MODERATOR: Thank you. Our next question will go to a journalist from Malawi, Martha Chirambo from Nations Publications. Operator, if you can open the line, please.

MEDIA: My name is Martha Chirambo, I’m from Nations Publications syndicate in Malawi. Malawi is a principal transit hub for illegal wildlife products. Also, apart from that, we are experiencing high levels of poaching mostly done by poachers who use muzzle loaders. I would therefore like to find out if there are any initiatives tailor-made for Malawi, Mozambique, Tanzania, and Zambia to combat the vice.

MR. FOOTE: Thank you very much, Martha. As I mentioned earlier, the countries that we work with are Kenya, Tanzania, Botswana, Namibia, and South Africa, and we will be starting in Malawi and Zambia later this year. To give you a broad overview of what we’re doing in those countries, our programs in Africa provide training and technical assistance on legal reform, investigative capacity, and building regional cooperation. We conduct regional programs to foster a transnational effort against this transnational crime, and we also oversee, as I mentioned earlier, our own International Law Enforcement Academy called ILEA in Gaborone, Botswana, which provides justice sector training, including specific courses on combatting wildlife trafficking, to regional partners. We also work closely with other U.S. law enforcement agencies, such as Department of Homeland Security, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Drug Enforcement Agency, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, NGOs, and international organizations, through whom we provide training, workshops, and other technical assistance in target regions to strengthen legislative frameworks, to enhance law enforcement and investigative capabilities, to develop prosecutorial and judicial capacity, and to support cross-border law enforcement cooperation. Our robust engagement across the continent also includes support to partner countries’ border management, port and airport security, and maritime patrol and investigation capacity to combat trafficking of wildlife. In addition, the State Department has environment officers and INL officers at select U.S. Embassies in Africa who engage in the entire range of diplomatic efforts to combat wildlife trafficking.

MODERATOR: Thank you. Our next question will go to the listening party at the U.S. Embassy in Lusaka, Zambia. Operator, can you open the line, please?

MEDIA: My name is Augustin from Hot FM, a radio station right here in Lusaka. I wanted to find out how much African countries are losing out in terms of these illegal activities that are being carried out on the continent? Maybe if you could specify quarterly or yearly, how much are we losing in terms of that?

MR. FOOTE: Augustin, that’s a fantastic question, and the reason is, this crime is a crime of opportunity. It is a low-risk, high-reward crime, since oftentimes enforcement for wildlife and other environmental crimes is weak, penalties are low, and prosecution rates are low. Wildlife trafficking is often pegged as a conservation issue and isn’t thought of as a serious crime the way other trafficked goods are. As a result, major transnational criminal organizations are able to make billions of dollars off this, it fuels corruption, it hinders economic growth, it impedes good governance across the continent, and it puts money not only in the coffers of drug trafficking organizations, but we have credible influence that some of the terrorists that operate across Africa derive revenues from this. So it’s a terribly destabilizing element that fuels corruption, instability, and violence across the entire continent.

MODERATOR: Thank you. Our next question will go to the listening party at the U.S. Embassy Addis Ababa in Ethiopia. Operator, can you open the line, please?

MEDIA: Hello, can you hear me?

MR. FOOTE: Yes.

MEDIA: Thank you, sir. [inaudible] for The Reporter Newspaper. My question is to [inaudible] in relation to its border links with Sudan, South Sudan, and Kenya. These are the areas that have a corridor for the elephant migration. What can you tell us specifically about these countries and the plight that they have. They have been tracing in the past [inaudible] that you might provide in terms of fighting wildlife trafficking, and maybe if there is any kind of training and other opportunities provided for park rangers and any other interested agencies. Thank you, sir.

MR. FOOTE: So, just so I’m sure I understand your question, you’re talking about Ethiopia’s borders with Sudan, South Sudan, and Kenya, and the corridors through which immigration and illicit products come through. Is that what your question is about?

MEDIA: Yeah, specifically, these are the corridors especially for the movement of elephants. So through that way, you know, we have seen that poachers and wildlife traffickers have a great opportunity to use it.

MR. FOOTE: Okay. Alright, so, obviously, some of the areas in that neighborhood you talk about suffer from bigger governance challenges than others, particularly South Sudan, and to a certain extent, Sudan. We have developed a close relationship with Kenya and the Kenya Wildlife Service over a period of many years and think of them as one of the better institutions against wildlife trafficking on the continent. But unfortunately, elephants do not respect borders, and poachers do not respect borders. So there are some gaps in enforcement. We continue to promote better cooperation between Ethiopia and its partners, particularly Kenya, and we will continue to look for opportunities to engage more where possible with our friends in Sudan and South Sudan, but we have not been able to make a ton of progress to date because of some of the instability there.

MODERATOR: Thank you. Our next question will go to Kevin Kelley from Nation Media Group based in New York. Can you open the line, please?

MEDIA: Hi, thanks for giving the call, I appreciate that. I apologize also because I came in a little bit late, but I don’t think the question I have had been fully addressed. You had mentioned in the response to an earlier reporter’s query that some of the terrorist organizations operating in Africa are believed or reported to get proceeds from wildlife trafficking. I’m wondering if you could be specific in that regard for Al-Shabaab in Somalia. I’ve seen reports that Shabaab may be profiting from the trade, the smuggling of wildlife. And also whether you have any knowledge that any of the combatants in South Sudan may be similarly engaged, and anything else you’d like to say about terrorist groups obtaining financing through this illicit trafficking. Thanks a lot.

MR. FOOTE: Okay, Kevin. Thank you. Well, we at the State Department are aware of claims that terrorist organizations such as ISIS West Africa and Al-Shabaab are involved in wildlife trafficking to finance some of their activities. These claims vary in credibility. We’ve also seen indications that organized crime groups and non-state armed groups may directly engage in wildlife poaching and trafficking. There’s been significant publicly available information that describes activity by the Lord’s Resistance Army conducting poaching missions into Garamba National Park in the Democratic Republic of Congo with the purpose of trafficking illegally-poached ivory to fund their criminal operations. Back to your initial question, I can’t go into the detail that you probably want me to. Much of this information is owned and controlled by law enforcement agencies for the purpose of conducting investigations and prosecutions, but we do see the ties, and we continue to look at this - not only the wildlife trafficking side of things - but where it is being used to fuel greater corruption, money laundering, and in some cases, ties to bigger criminal or terrorist organizations.

MODERATOR: Thank you very much. Our next question will go to Guy Rogers, Senior Reporter and Specialist on Environment and Science at the Herald & Weekend Post in South Africa. Operator, can you open the line, please?

MEDIA: Yeah, hi, thanks very much. I’m hoping you can answer this question. What is the biggest threat to wildlife in South Africa? I’m thinking specifically in relation to poor policy planning and enforcement of policy, and also to poverty. My understanding of this, poaching and illegal trafficking, but perhaps you could speak also to those other issues and are they a factor here in South Africa  and what’s your feeling on this?

MR. FOOTE: Guy, that’s also a good question with probably a complicated answer. You understand South Africa far better than I do, sitting over here in Washington. Obviously, these criminal organizations take advantage of poverty and disenfranchised individuals and villages to go out and do the dirty work, which is the poaching, the killing of the animals, the chain sawing of their horns, etc., leaving their carcasses there to rot, and then they turn it over to the criminal organizations who then move it onwards down the value chain. So poverty obviously plays a big role in it. Your country is enormous and has a huge number of protected game parks and wildlife that is outside of it. So that is a huge challenge to protecting the animals. Policy planning obviously plays a role - all governments are faced with competing issues for funding and prioritization and, at times, enforcement of anti-poaching and counter wildlife-trafficking laws is not as high of a priority as we’d like to see it. Corruption plays a major role across the globe as it goes from the low-level poacher bribing a ranger, up to the high-level trafficker bribing higher-level airport, port, or government officials. So it’s a very broad problem and broad issue, I hope I was able to put some color into it, but, as you know, many factors play into the reason why we’re seeing this crime so rampantly.

MODERATOR: Thank you. Just a reminder, we have one more question in the queue. If you would like to ask another question, please press *1 on your phone to get on the question queue. We’d like to go back to Malabo and attempt the question, hopefully in English this time. Operator, can you open the line?

MEDIA: Good afternoon, bonjour, buen día. I’m Frederick [inaudible] journalist from [inaudible] International [inaudible] in Malabo. About Equatorial Guinea, have you put in place any strategy to stop trafficking of animals?

MR. FOOTE: Thank you, Frederick. Yes, we have, and thank you for giving that to me in English. I listened to your French; your French is very good, unfortunately it’s much better than mine, so I didn’t understand exactly what you were saying.

So, the United States, in 2014, created a national strategy to combat wildlife trafficking, in which the State Department and my bureau, INL, play a key role in working with our partners overseas on that strategy. Last year, in 2016, our Congress passed the End Wildlife Trafficking Act, which institutionalized the work of a national United States task force into law and was signed unanimously by Congress. And furthermore, shortly after he was inaugurated, President Trump signed an executive order to strengthen enforcement to target transnational criminal organizations to include explicitly wildlife traffickers. So, from these combined actions, we’re confident that we have broad strategies and that combatting wildlife trafficking will continue to be of major interest to the U.S. Government going forward. We continue to refine and improve our strategies in Africa. We have only been working in a limited number of countries for a couple - two or three - years at this point, and we’re working hard to get better and broader coverage from our resources across the continent. Thank you.

MODERATOR: Thank you. Our next question will go to the listening party at the U.S. Embassy in Addis Ababa, in Ethiopia. Can you open the line, please? Hello? Okay, operator, are you there?

MODERATOR: The line is open, please go ahead.

MODERATOR: Is this for Addis Ababa, you would like us to talk?

MR. FOOTE: If you’ve got a question.

MEDIA: Thank you again, this is Birhanu from Addis Ababa, The Reporter Newspaper. Sir, I just want to know your working relationship with the Ethiopian Wildlife Protection Authority, if any, I would like to know? Thank you.

MR. FOOTE: Could you run that by me again, please? Repeat that. The working relationship with whom?

MEDIA: The Ethiopian Wildlife Protection Authority, they are a government agency. Is there any working relationship? I would like to know. Thank you.

MR. FOOTE: That’s a great question, but probably one that’s a little detailed for me to give you a good answer. We can direct that to our embassy in Addis Ababa, but since I cover wildlife trafficking for the entire world, I don’t have a great handle on some of our individual working relationships, and Ethiopia is one of those ones that I just don’t have a good feel for, so I apologize for that.

MODERATOR: Our next question will go to the listening party at the embassy in Windhoek, Namibia. If you could open the line, please?

MEDIA: Hello, my name is Estelle. I’m asking on behalf of my colleague Ellanie Smit. So, are you aware of any international wildlife syndicates that are operating in SADC, and specifically in Namibia, and if so, are you working with our police authorities on this?

MR. FOOTE: Okay, another great question. We are aware of a number of transnational criminal organizations working across Africa. We are working closely with Namibia and other partner nations there in Africa to investigate, prosecute, and incarcerate those that do this. This information is owned by our law enforcement professionals, and as a result, I can’t comment with details on that, but I can tell you that we have seen a huge increase across the continent over the last year and a half in seizures and arrests. For example, a group that we provide training to on investigating major wildlife crimes, two Lusaka Agreement’s Task Force and Congolese officers, recently investigated an ivory trafficking network resulting in the arrest of two international executives for trafficking more than a ton and a half of ivory. We are doing - at many ports and airports across Africa - training and handling of detection dogs through Africa Wildlife Foundation, and in the first month of operation, in one airport, in Entebbe, the canine detection unit made 30 seizures of illegally trafficked wildlife goods, mostly ivory, and so while I don’t have any detailed information specific to Namibia there, I can tell you that we work closely with Namibian officials, they attend all of our regional trainings, and we’re really happy with the support and commitment that we see from them.

MEDIA: Thank you very much.

MR. FOOTE: Thank you.

MODERATOR: Thanks, our next question will go to the U.S. Embassy in Lusaka. Please open the line.

MEDIA: Okay, very good afternoon, I’m Stuart Nisudo, I’m a journalist with Suma Systems, we publish a business monthly magazine, Solwezi Today. I just wanted to ask a very straightforward question from your perspective. Is poaching and wildlife trafficking on the decline, or is the trend really increasing, from your perspective? Thank you.

MR. FOOTE: Thank you, Stuart. From my perspective - and I’ve been doing this for a little over two years - I see the trend on the slight decline at this point in time. And there are a number of reasons for that, but perhaps the biggest reason, which we haven’t talked about very much today, is on the demand side. Last year, the United States and China, who happen to be the two biggest demand countries in the world for illegally-trafficked wildlife products, signed an agreement to end legal markets in most illicit wildlife. China plans to fully enforce its ban on ivory and other wildlife products by the end of this year, the United States has done the same. I attended a huge ivory crush of several tons in New York City a few weeks ago to show the amount that we’ve seized here in the United States. We’ve also seen major efforts and decreases in demand across Southeast Asia, which are also high-demand countries, such as Laos, Vietnam, Cambodia, etc. So that has had a big impact on demand, and as a result, we’ve seen prices go down. We’ve also seen many successes on the supply side, which I’ve been speaking about here today, with impressive seizures, huge ivory crushes and burns in Kenya, in Vietnam, in San Diego, and, as I mentioned, in New York. We’re now beginning to see a lot more prosecution, so I am cautiously optimistic that we’ve reached a tipping point and we’re starting to really have a positive impact on this terrible scourge.

MODERATOR: Thank you. As a follow-up to that, we did have a question related, which I’d like to put forth now. This has come in from Peter Fabricius of the Daily Maverick in South Africa. He asks, in addition to the list in the area of the Chinese and the ban, could you please, Mr. Foote, elaborate on the joint law enforcement operation with China and other countries?

MR. FOOTE: Well, Peter, that has had a big impact on our relationship with China. As you know, the United States’ relationship with China is multi-faceted and complicated. We’ve had a robust law enforcement relationship with the Chinese for several years now. We meet several times a year with their Ministry of Public Security, and through that, we have really been able to enhance our cooperation on law enforcement as it pertains to wildlife, drugs, and other illicit substances, and I think that that law enforcement cooperation sort of opened the door a little bit for us to reach the political agreement at a higher level on banning ivory and other wildlife trafficking products.

MODERATOR: Thank you. Our next question will come from Guy Rogers, if you could open the line, please?

MEDIA: Yeah, thanks, Mr. Foote. Just following on this very awesome stuff you’ve been talking about, on a bit of a decline. Here in South Africa we’ve been very much embroiled in the whole poaching situation, with our rhinos especially, so what more should we be doing? What’s the next step that we need to be doing to make that decline go even faster?

MR. FOOTE: Thanks, Guy. I think the key is - and I believe you have this in South Africa - and I believe we have this across much of the continent, there are still some outliers - but political will is key. Political will is the first step in fighting corruption and the wildlife trafficking, money laundering side of things. And that’s going on, but once we have political will, then it takes several years to develop the capabilities, within the rangers, within the police, within the ports and airports and your customs officials, within your court systems, legally, and so that commitment must last over several years so that we develop the muscle memory organic to each country. And then we think that the long-term key is international cooperation. So South Africa cooperating not only with all its neighbors on the border, but with other hubs in Africa that traffic illegal wildlife so that we can get a better handle on who the networks are, how they’re moving it, where it’s going, and we can really continue to make huge seizures and take the heads of these transnational criminal syndicates out.

Everybody still here?

MODERATOR: Tiffany, if you’re on mute, possibly?

MR. FOOTE: So I have me, and who’s that - Addis?

MODERATOR: Hello?

MR. FOOTE: Hello?

MODERATOR: Hi, are we all on here? Sorry, our power just went out briefly, apologies for that.

MR. FOOTE: Okay.

MODERATOR: I wanted to take another question from the embassy in Windhoek, they are in the queue. Go ahead, operator?

MEDIA: Thank you, Bianca again from the Namibia Broadcasting Corporation. You had mentioned a number of successes in efforts of various governments to combat poaching. Could you perhaps give some statistics on the increases as well as the declines in poaching?

MR. FOOTE: What I have are a number of anecdotal evidence. I was out of the office last week, so I was unable to come up with statistics. That is something that my team can put together and share with you. I f you make sure to let Tiffany know that the folks in Windhoek are interested in some statistics, I’ll have my team put that together and share that with you.

MODERATOR: Thank you very much. We have another question from the U.S. Embassy listening party in Lusaka. Operator, can you open that line, please?

MEDIA: My name is Nicholas [UNCLEAR] from Metro FM in Lusaka. Earlier on you alluded to the fact that the issue of poverty being  a factor in abetting poaching. I want to know your views in terms of what can be done to ensure the local people, who again are seen to be benefitting directly from the tourism potential within the areas, because I think that is what can help in terms of helping to fight the poaching amongst the local people. Thank you.

MR. FOOTE: I agree. And this is not fully - while my organization, the Department of State INL, approaches wildlife trafficking from a criminal justice perspective - and it is a serious crime that we take as a very high priority, and demand plays a very high role in this, and USAID and others are working to decrease demand - economic opportunity in the areas where poaching occurs is also a critical piece. And that’s something that we have to get better at, because I touched on it earlier: where we have poverty and disenfranchised people in certain areas, this is a crime of opportunity. And it doesn’t take long, and there is a fair economic reward to do that. So part of the solution to this is to work on better opportunities in conservation and in economic possibilities for people who live, work, and engage with these animals on a daily basis.

MODERATOR: Thank you. We have a question in the queue from our U.S. Embassy in Harare, Zimbabwe. Can you open the line, please?

MEDIA: Yeah, this is [UNCLEAR]. I just wanted to check what level of engagement with Zimbabwe you have on wildlife strategy for southern Africa?

MR. FOOTE: Thank you. At this point in time - earlier I mentioned the countries with whom we have country-specific programs, which means we have funding at a certain level, we have American officers that do this full-time. Harare and Zimbabwe are not currently a specific country program for wildlife trafficking, but we do invite them to our International Law Enforcement Academy trainings in Gaborone, and we work with them through multilateral and international organizations to enhance capacity and to build better regional cooperation. Thank you, and with that, I think that’s going to be the last question I take. Perhaps you’ll give me the opportunity just to make a quick closing statement, Tiffany?

MODERATOR: Could I just ask one question from Nairobi? I hadn’t seen it. It was just sent in and they haven’t had a chance to engage. Would that be okay?

MR. FOOTE: Okay. Yes.

MODERATOR: Alright, thank you. It says here: Wildlife trafficking takes place under guise of international trade. What partnerships exist between office and international trade facilitation by the U.S. Government? Are you looking at this problem from a regional perspective or only bilaterally?

MR. FOOTE: We’re certainly looking at it from a regional criminal justice perspective. And as a result, we are targeting networks that do trade through the airports, the ports, over the roads. We see emerging trends all the time of different routes that come in and out, but it is under the guise of trade, obviously. A lot of it goes via air, some goes via mail, plenty goes via rail and sea, and we are taking a regional approach, but, that said, we need to continue to work with our partners to get better at this regionally. We’re at a point now where many countries are becoming strong bilateral partners, but because all it has to do is cross their border for it to become somebody else’s problem, we need to enhance our regional cooperation.

MODERATOR: That’s great. Thank you very much. And I was going to offer you the chance to make closing remarks, so please do so.

MR. FOOTE: Alright, really brief. First I’d really like to thank everybody for participating in this. This is an issue that’s very close to my heart and you’ve asked some really incisive and important questions. I really appreciate you helping to spread the critical information about wildlife trafficking and why it’s illegal and why it destabilizes countries across Africa through corruption, instability, and violence, so that we can better inform our populations as to the cost we pay as societies for this. And also, if we don’t continue to take urgent, strong action, we run the risk of permanently losing iconic species and seeing far greater instability across the world. So thank you very much for participating, I really appreciate you giving me this opportunity, and I want to wish all of you the best. Thank you.

MODERATOR: Thank you very much. That concludes today’s call. I want to thank Mr. Dan Foote, Deputy Assistant Secretary, Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs for joining us, and thank all of our callers for participating. If you have any questions about today’s call, you may contact the Africa Regional Media Hub at afmediahub@state.gov. Thank you.