Combating Global Illegal Wildlife Trade a U.S. Priority

Carole’s note:  According to a woman who works for Claudia McMurray, there has never been a person in the State Department who cared more about protecting the tiger. 

 

Combating Global Illegal Wildlife Trade a U.S. Priority

 

29 June 2007

 

Staggering profits generated by black market, State Department official says

 

 

Washington — The global black market in wildlife and wildlife products now generates about $10 billion annually, and much of it is organized by international crime syndicates, Claudia McMurray told a USINFO Webchat on June 27.

 

“[I] t is largely conducted by the same professionals that engage in other international organized crime,” McMurray, assistant secretary of state for oceans, science and environmental affairs, said. This is one reason the United States has taken a hard line against the illegal wildlife trade and co-founded the Coalition Against Wildlife Trafficking (CAWT) in 2005. CAWT currently has 19 government and nongovernmental partners.

 

In a short time, CAWT has made some inroads fighting the trade, most notably in cooperation with the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN). “We were very instrumental in the formation of the world’s first regional Wildlife Enforcement Network, ASEAN-WEN,” she said, adding that the network has broken up several criminal wildlife trafficking rings.

 

Diligent law enforcement followed by effective prosecution is the goal of such programs. “We are working to improve countries’ capacity to enforce against and prosecute those who are engaged in this activity,” she says.

 

The United States has a strong record of prosecuting wildlife traffickers, McMurray said, noting that the Department of Justice actively pursues cases against traffickers.

 

“[C]racking down on these criminals may shut down rings that traffic in people, drugs and weapons, McMurray said.

 

She said one basis for action against illegal trafficking in wildlife is the Convention on Illegal Trade in Endangered Species (CITES), which has been in effect for more than 30 years.  The convention sets specific restrictions on trade in animals and plants it lists.  The 172 countries that have ratified CITES generally enact laws to make the trade illegal within their own borders, she said. 

 

Some countries — such as the United States through the Endangered Species Act — legally protect additional animals not listed by CITES. (See related article.)

 

CAWT supports CITES goals to curb demand by raising public awareness and giving tourists and others the necessary information to differentiate between legal and illegal animals and products, she said.

 

At the recent CITES Conference of the Parties, the United States strongly supported a decision that will prohibit any consideration of proposals to trade in ivory for the next nine years, she said.

 

“The United States takes the current ban on ivory trade very seriously, and we have one of the strongest records of enforcement in the world,” she said.

 

McMurray said CAWT partners have lobbied for strong measures against illegal wildlife trade at the highest political levels, such as the Group of Eight industrialized nations, the U.N. Forum on Forests and the U.N. Crime Commission.

 

“President Bush has also raised this issue with a number of world leaders, including President Lula of Brazil and Prime Minister Singh of India,” she said, adding the topic was on the agenda during the recent U.S.-China Strategic Economic Dialogue.

 

“So we are making progress.  But, said McMurray, “there is a lot more work to do.”

 

The transcript of McMurray’s webchat, along with additional information about upcoming webchats, is available on USINFO’s Webchat Station.

 

Further information about the Coalition Against Wildlife Trafficking is available on its Web site.

 

More information about CITES is available on the convention’s Web site.

 

(Distributed by the Bureau of International Information Programs, U.S. Department of State. Web site: http://usinfo.state.gov)

 

http://usinfo.state.gov/xarchives/display.html?p=washfile-english&y=2007&m=June&x=20070629112131adynned0.7754633

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