Hillary Clinton Slams Wildlife Traffickingthe daily dish
WASHINGTON - US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton called Thursday for a stepped up fight against poaching, warning against criminal gangs seeking to satisfy growing demand for ivory and rhino horn.
"Over the past few years wildlife trafficking has become more organized, more lucrative, more widespread, and more dangerous than ever before," the top US diplomat told a meeting at the State Department.
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Despite progress over the past three to four decades to clamp down on poaching, growing wealth meant demand was on the rise again.
"As the middle class grows, which we all welcome and support, in many nations items like ivory or rhinoceros horn become symbols of wealth and social status," Clinton said, urging all governments to join the Coalition Against Wildlife Trafficking.
"And so the demand for these goods rises. By some estimates, the black market in wildlife is rivaled in size only by trade in illegal arms and drugs.
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"Today, ivory sells for nearly $1,000 per pound. Rhino horns are literally worth their weight in gold, $30,000 per pound."
The rise in trafficking in endangered animal species was also hitting domestic economies where local populations depend on wildlife for tourism, as well as spreading disease and helping to fund rebel militias.
"We all, unfortunately, contribute to the continued demand for illegal animal goods. Wildlife might be targeted and killed across Asia and Africa, but their furs, tusks, bones, and horns are sold all over the world," Clinton stressed.
The United States was now the second largest destination for smuggled animal goods, she said, adding "that is something we are going to address."
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But Clinton insisted it was "a global challenge that spans continents and crosses oceans, and we need to address it with partnerships that are as robust and far-reaching as the criminal networks we seek to dismantle."
It was one of the messages that she would be taking with President Barack Obama to the East Asia summit in Cambodia later this month, she said.
Clinton urged the establishment of a global system of regional wildlife enforcement networks, which she was hoping would get off the ground with $100,000 being put up by the United States.
Clinton said she was also asking for an intelligence assessment of the impact of large-scale wildlife trafficking on security, saying she had been alarmed by reports from leaders in Africa.
"It is one thing to be worried about the traditional poachers who come in and kill and take a few animals, a few tusks, a few horns, or other animal parts," she said. "It's something else when you've got helicopters, night vision goggles, automatic weapons, which pose a threat to human life as well as wildlife."