On July 1, 2013, President Obama announced that by using an Executive Order he had established a Presidential Task Force on Wildlife Trafficking. I applaud his action. Illegal trafficking in wildlife is a much bigger problem than most people think. It’s second only to the illegal trafficking in drugs and ahead of trafficking in firearms and human slavery, and it can be a source of funding for terrorist groups.
President Obama was in Tanzania when this Executive Order was released, and Africa is especially hard-hit. Over the past decade and a half, experts say, South Africa has seen a 5,000 percent increase in the illegal hunting of rhinos, while elephant poaching is currently at record levels–accounting for some 30,000 deaths each year.
According to the White House Fact Sheet,
Wildlife trafficking is a multi-billion dollar illicit business that is decimating Africa’s iconic animal populations. Many species–most notably elephants and rhinoceroses–now face the risk of significant decline or even extinction. Like other forms of illicit trade, wildlife trafficking undermines security across nations. Well-armed, well-equipped, and well-organized networks of poachers, criminals, and corrupt officials exploit porous borders and weak institutions to profit from trading in illegally taken wildlife.