WASHINGTON – Today, U.S. Senators Chris Coons (D-Del.) and Rob Portman (R-Ohio) introduced legislation to combat the crisis of wildlife poaching and trafficking and build on bipartisan efforts to address the practice. Wildlife trafficking is a major threat to conservation of threatened species and has also been linked to other transnational organized criminal activities, including trafficking in narcotics, weapons, and people. The Eliminate, Neutralize, and Disrupt (END) Wildlife Trafficking Reauthorization and Improvements Act of 2020 would permanently authorize and expand legislation led by Senator Coons that was signed into law in 2016.
Since passing in 2016, the END Wildlife Trafficking Act has aided in the arrest of members of wildlife trafficking networks and supported interagency efforts to tackle the practice globally through country-specific and regional initiatives. Certain provisions of the law are set to expire in 2021. The END Wildlife Reauthorization and Improvements Act permanently authorizes the duties of the Presidential Task Force on Wildlife Trafficking and related reports on major wildlife trafficking countries, and creates new focus areas such as the role of online platforms in facilitating trafficking activities.
“Wildlife trafficking is not just a critical conservation issue; it also threatens the security of the United States and our international partners,” said Senator Chris Coons. “The Presidential Task Force on Wildlife Trafficking has done outstanding work, but the threat of wildlife poaching and trafficking is constantly evolving. It is vital that the work of the Task Force continues without disruption, and I am proud to introduce this bipartisan bill with Senator Portman to build on successful efforts to address illegal wildlife trade.”
“As a co-chair of the International Conservation Caucus, I am pleased to join Senator Coons in introducing the END Wildlife Trafficking and Improvements Act of 2020 to help prevent the trafficking and poaching of the world’s most threatened species. Wildlife trafficking is not only a matter of conservation but also national security and international stability, as billions in profits from the illegal wildlife trade are used to finance other illicit and terrorist activity. Importantly, combatting wildlife trafficking can also help prevent zoonotic disease transmission, such as the coronavirus. This legislation aims to combat trafficking in countries where it is most prevalent, while also recognizing wildlife trafficking that occurs using online platforms and the importance of using technology to combat the illegal wildlife trade. I urge my colleagues to join us in supporting this important bipartisan legislation,” said Senator Portman.
The END Wildlife Trafficking Reauthorization and Improvements Act of 2020 is supported by the African Wildlife Foundation, World Wildlife Fund, Wildlife Conservation Society, the Humane Society of the United States, the Humane Society Legislative Fund, the International Fund for Animal Welfare, the Natural Resources Defense Council, Conservation International, and Vulcan.
World Wildlife Fund President & CEO Carter Roberts said, “The END Wildlife Trafficking Act has helped stop illegal wildlife trade, disrupt criminal networks, and address one of the root causes of pandemics, like COVID-19. Reauthorizing and strengthening this law is vital, which is why there is such strong bipartisan leadership behind it. We thank Senators Coons and Portman for moving this issue forward. It is an essential one for the safety and security of our country and the world.”
“The Wildlife Conservation Society applauds Senators Coons and Portman for their leadership in introducing legislation in the U.S. Senate to renew the Eliminate, Neutralize, and Disrupt Wildlife Trafficking Reauthorization and Improvements Act of 2020,” said Kelly Keenan Aylward, Washington Director for the Wildlife Conservation Society. “Renewing and expanding the functions of the Combating Wildlife Trafficking Task Force is essential to build upon U.S. international anti-poaching, anti-trafficking, and consumer behavior change programs in light of the growing presence of criminal networks in wildlife trafficking, including online platforms.”
Didi Wamukoya, lead for Wildlife Law Enforcement at African Wildlife Foundation said, “The END Wildlife Trafficking Act has helped African Wildlife Foundation (AWF) to develop and field innovative programs to disrupt illegal wildlife trade, including deployment of conservation detection dogs at major trafficking hubs to sniff out illegal wildlife products. The support provided by this Act, and distributed by the Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement, has enabled AWF and its partners to push for a comprehensive review of wildlife laws in Kenya and Uganda, yielding punitive penalties for wildlife trafficking among other procedural improvements. It is imperative to protect and build on the gains achieved so far in combatting wildlife trafficking in Africa. That’s why support for the END Wildlife Trafficking Reauthorization and Improvements Act of 2020 is critical – to continue organized and coordinated efforts from the United States Government to protect and further these gains in combating IWT across the world.”
“Since its original passage, the Eliminate, Neutralize, and Disrupt Wildlife Trafficking Act has led to real improvements in efforts to combat global poaching and wildlife trafficking. This reauthorization will both continue and enhance that essential work by effectively shutting down even more avenues of illicit trade,” said Kate Wall, Senior Legislative Manager at the International Fund for Animal Welfare. “IFAW applauds Senator Coons and Senator Portman for their valuable leadership in stopping the illegal trade in wildlife, which profoundly threatens individual animals, biodiversity, communities, and even global stability.”
James Roth, Senior VP of Global Policy and Government Affairs at Conservation International said, “We commend Senator Coons and Senator Portman for taking a critical first step on pandemic prevention. Wildlife trafficking, deforestation, early detection, a One Health approach and better global cooperation are all necessary components of a comprehensive response to the COVID-19 pandemic. This bill takes bold, new steps for the wildlife trafficking component, such as permanently reauthorizing the Presidential Task Force and applying the latest technology to combat wildlife trafficking.”
Zak Smith, Director, International Wildlife Conservation at the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) said, “The nature crisis threatens a million species with extinction and undermines the natural systems we depend on to thrive. To effectively address this, we have to tackle the direct exploitation of species. It is one of the leading drivers of this decline. Reauthorizing this law—and focusing on the scourge of wildlife trafficking that jeopardizes species around the world—is a key part of that effort.”
Chuck Cooper, Managing Director of Government Affairs, Vulcan Inc, said, “The illegal wildlife trade threatens our planet’s biodiversity, promotes corruption, endangers global health, and undermines our national security. The Eliminate, Neutralize, and Disrupt Wildlife Trafficking Reauthorization and Improvements Act builds on the END Act by encouraging partnerships with the private sector and NGOs that leverage technology to combat wildlife crime and IUU fishing.”
“Wildlife trafficking is illegal for good reason because the trade in their parts also fuels corruption, terrorism and other illicit activity in range state nations while posing a public health risk of zoonotic disease transmission worldwide. The END Wildlife Trafficking reauthorization bill sets the stage for ramping up American investments in enforcement, strategies to reduce consumer demand, and expanded global cooperation to stop this dangerous, destructive and ecologically reckless trade that is driving a number of wild species throughout the world toward extinction,” said Sara Amundson, President of the Humane Society Legislative Fund. “We applaud the foresight of Sens. Coons and Portman in reauthorizing this important task force to ensure coordination across the whole of government against this pernicious, pervasive activity.”
Bill text is available here.