U.S. House passes ‘Global Anti-Poaching Act’ that puts wildlife trafficking on par with drug and weapons trafficking 3rd November 2015 / Shreya Dasgupta

The U.S. government has stepped up its fight against wildlife trafficking.

On Monday, the U.S. House of Representatives passed the Global Anti-Poaching Act, which aims to “support global anti-poaching efforts, strengthen the capacity of partner countries to counter wildlife trafficking, and designate major wildlife trafficking countries.” The anti-poaching bill was co-sponsored by 43 Republicans and 64 Democrats.

“This legislation is a significant step forward in the fight against wildlife crime and demonstrates the continued leadership that the US Congress is taking on this issue,” Ginette Hemley, Senior Vice President of Wildlife Conservation at World Wildlife Fund (WWF), said in a statement.

“Wildlife crime has traditionally been extremely high profit and very low risk. By officially designating wildlife trafficking as a serious crime, the risk may finally outweigh the potential reward. This could be a real game changer for the conservation of elephants, rhinos, and countless species illegally killed and traded around the world,” she added.

Baby elephant in South Africa. Photo by Rhett Butler.
Baby elephant in South Africa. Photo by Rhett Butler.

The legislation notes that the same international gangs and criminals that smuggle weapons and drugs are involved in poaching and trafficking wildlife. So it puts wildlife trafficking in the same category as weapons and drug-trafficking, “making it a liable offense for money laundering and racketeering.”

To support global anti-poaching efforts, the legislation aims to label countries that are found to be a “major source, transit point or consumer of wildlife trafficking products”. It also calls for a special designation for countries that have failed to adhere to international agreements on endangered or threatened species.

The legislation recognizes that in most protected areas, park rangers are often outnumbered by poachers, and presses the U.S. government to “provide security assistance to appropriate African security forces to counter wildlife trafficking and poaching.”

The legislation also supports “professionalization of partner countries” wildlife law enforcement rangers on the front lines of the fight against poachers, who are often armed with night-vision goggles, heavy weaponry, and even helicopters.”

Moreover, the legislation supports expansion and strengthening of regional wildlife enforcement networks (WENs), which are “government-led, regionally-focused platforms that help countries strengthen coordination and promote intelligence sharing.”

“This vital legislation holds foreign governments accountable by ‘naming and shaming’ the worst violators and adds greater consequences for traffickers in this illicit trade,” Edward Randall Royce, Chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee and author of the Global Anti-Poaching Act, said in a statement. “And it presses the Administration to continue to provide important security assistance to African park rangers.”