WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Chris Coons (D-Del.), chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Subcommittee on African Affairs, praised the National Strategy on Wildlife Trafficking released by the White House on Wednesday, which aims to strengthen U.S. leadership on efforts to combat the illegal wildlife trade.

“Wildlife trafficking has emerged as a serious threat not only to the world's iconic wildlife species, but also to national security, community stability, and economic development,” Senator Coons said. “The growing involvement of heavily armed, well-organized criminal networks in the trade has elevated the seriousness of the problem, and, coupled with escalating demand – primarily in Asia, but also in the United States – has led to dramatic declines in wildlife populations and ongoing security challenges, particularly in the African nations where poaching is occurring.”

Poaching of elephants, rhinos, and other wildlife across the globe has reached unprecedented levels in recent years. The crisis is particularly acute in central Africa, where heavily armed poachers have decimated elephant populations, and in South Africa, which houses the continent’s largest proportion of rhinos. Profits from the multi-billion dollar wildlife trade are frequently funneled to transnational crime syndicates, whose activities threaten to disrupt the rule of law in developing countries.

“Today’s landmark announcement of a national strategy on wildlife trafficking is welcome news,” the Senator continued. “For the first time, the U.S. has a comprehensive strategy for combatting this threat. As chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Subcommittee on African Affairs, I sent a letter in December urging the Presidential Task Force on Wildlife Trafficking to develop a strong national strategy, and I am pleased with the result. I applaud the administration for taking this threat seriously and developing a coordinated national strategy to combat it. I look forward to working with the agencies involved, as well as our international and non-governmental partners to implement the strategy and make headway to address this issue.”

“The omnibus appropriations bill approved by Congress last month includes, for the first time ever, $45 million in dedicated funding to combat wildlife trafficking,” Senator Coons said. “This is a great start, but we have to do more as a nation to marshal resources, strengthen legal tools and law enforcement, expand training and education, and employ technologies and other innovative solutions.”

The strategy outlines three strategic priorities for U.S. actions to combat poaching: strengthening domestic and global enforcement; reducing demand for illegally traded wildlife at home and abroad; and strengthening partnerships with international partners, local communities, NGOs, private industry, and others to combat illegal wildlife poaching and trade. Download the full strategy here: http://1.usa.gov/1m4fsZx

Senator Coons was among a group of bipartisan leaders from the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and House Foreign Affairs Committee who sent a letter to the chairs of the Presidential Task Force on Wildlife Trafficking in December urging the development of a strong national strategy and the full use of available government resources to comprehensively combat poaching.

Their letter can be downloaded as a PDF here: http://1.usa.gov/1bdssQZ