The END Wildlife Trafficking Act is now law. So, what's next?

The END Wildlife Trafficking Act is now law. So, what's next?
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Senator Flake and I at the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust near Nairobi, Kenya, in July 2015
Senator Flake and I at the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust near Nairobi, Kenya, in July 2015

I’m thrilled today the President signed into law the END Wildlife Trafficking Act, a bill Republican Senator Jeff Flake of Arizona and I introduced last December.

This bill is needed now more than ever. Recent news about the African elephant population shrinking by 30% since 2007 largely due to poaching showed just how urgent this crisis has become. To put it another way, currently one elephant is killed every 15 minutes. Not only are iconic wildlife species in grave danger of disappearing, but wildlife trafficking also fuels well-organized criminal networks, threatening global security.

Our bill supports the ongoing work of the Presidential Task Force on Combating Wildlife Trafficking and directs the Task Force to coordinate relevant agencies and U.S. missions in working with countries experiencing wildlife crime to develop strategic plans with recommendations for how each country can combat threats to wildlife. It also gives prosecutors more tools to go after individuals involved in high-value wildlife crime.

While today marks an important step in the fight to end wildlife trafficking, signing the bill into law is just the beginning – the hard work is still ahead.

Here are three ways we can work together to end wildlife trafficking once and for all:

  1. Now that this bill is law, we must keep focused to make sure it is implemented effectively. This means regularly checking in with the agencies our bill tasks with addressing wildlife trafficking including the State Department, USAID, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the Department of Justice, and others, to make sure they are following through.
  2. We must work to stimulate economic development in communities where poaching is one of the only reliable sources of income. By helping communities grow conservation programs, sustainable agriculture, eco-tourism, and other livelihoods, we can create incentives for conserving land and protecting wildlife.
  3. Finally, we will not be able to stop this crisis until we dramatically reduce the demand for illegal wildlife products such as ivory and rhino horn. This demand — which has exploded in the last several years – has made selling illegal wildlife products highly lucrative, further encouraging people to poach rhinos and elephants. Through international agreements such as those made at the CITES conference this past week, and by implementing social marketing and public information campaigns, we can send the message loud and clear that continuing to buy these products is threatening iconic wildlife that we take for granted and is threatening security in these communities.

We have a lot of work ahead of us, but I’m confident that, together, we can build on the momentum of this bill becoming law and stop this global crisis.

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