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AWF CEO Appointed to Advisory Council on Wildlife Trafficking

  • Monday, September 9, 2013
  • Washington, D.C.
Ivory from poached elephants that was confiscated by authorities. The new Advisory Council aims to prevent future poaching.

Ivory from poached elephants that was confiscated by authorities. The Advisory Council aims to prevent poaching. Photo: Paul Thomson

Advisory Council will support the Presidential Task Force on Wildlife Trafficking in developing a national strategy for combatting the illegal wildlife trade, a multi-billion dollar a year industry

WASHINGTON, D.C., September 9, 2013— Today U.S. Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell announced the appointment of eight members, including the African Wildlife Foundation’s CEO, Dr. Patrick Bergin, to the Advisory Council on Wildlife Trafficking. The Council will provide advice and support to the Presidential Task Force on Wildlife Trafficking, established through a July 1 Executive Order by U.S. President Barack Obama and chaired by the U.S. Secretary of State, the U.S. Secretary of the Interior, and the U.S. Attorney General. With advice from Council experts, the Task Force will develop a national strategy for combatting the illegal wildlife trade—a global industry estimated to generate at least US$10 billion annually in illicit revenue—to be completed by the end of the year.

“I am honored to be asked to sit on the Advisory Council and to be able to play a role in helping the United States lead on this very important issue of putting a stop to the illegal wildlife trade,” said Patrick Bergin, CEO of the African Wildlife Foundation. “Many governments now recognize the threat that the illegal wildlife trade—and the billions of dollars in revenue it generates for middlemen, criminal syndicates, and terror groups—poses, not just to the survival of our most treasured wildlife but also to national and international peace and security interests.”

Bergin, along with representatives from World Wildlife Fund, Wildlife Conservation Society, and the International Conservation Caucus Foundation, will represent the conservation community on the Council. Other Council members include representatives from the private sector as well as former government officials closely involved with combatting domestic and international wildlife crime.

The Advisory Council will make recommendations to the Task Force on how to:

  • Effectively support anti-poaching activities on the ground;
  • Coordinate regional law enforcement efforts to tackle trans-boundary poaching and wildlife trafficking;
  • Develop and support effective legal enforcement mechanisms; and
  • Develop strategies to reduce illicit trade in wildlife and reduce consumer demand for illegally trafficked wildlife.

These recommendations will be incorporated into a national strategy drafted by the Task Force, with action on the recommendations to begin next year. Members of Congress have been briefed by both the Department of State and Department of the Interior over the last year and, along with the Attorney General, will conduct another briefing on September 12.

President Obama announced the Executive Order creating the Task Force and Council and committing U.S. resources and technical support to countries currently hard hit by poaching and trafficking of wildlife during a trip this summer to Africa, where he held a joint press conference with Tanzanian President Jakaya Kikwete.

“[We have] discussed an issue that’s inseparable from Africa’s identity and prosperity—and that’s its wildlife,” said President Obama during the July press conference. “Tourists from around the world, including the United States, come here—especially to Tanzania—to experience its natural beauty and its national parks, and that’s obviously an important part of the economy of this country. But poaching and trafficking are threatening Africa’s wildlife, so today I issued a new Executive Order to better organize U.S. government efforts in this fight so that we can cooperate further with the Tanzanian government and others.”

The president went on to add that the U.S. would commit millions of dollars to help countries across the region build their capacity to address the challenge of the illegal wildlife trade. In addition to establishing the Advisory Council and Presidential Task Force, the Executive Order is ensuring the allocation of US$10 million to Kenya, South Africa, and other countries in sub-Saharan Africa to fight illegal wildlife trafficking and is enhancing regulations that directly affect trafficking of the African elephant and rhinoceros, as well as assign a U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service official to the U.S. Embassy in Dar es Salaam to support Tanzania’s efforts to create a wildlife security strategy. 

“The entire world has a stake in making sure that we preserve Africa's beauty for future generations,” stated President Obama.

President Obama’s Executive Order followed a “Call to Action” event held last November by former Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, wherein she announced that the U.S. Department of State would add wildlife trafficking to its foreign policy agenda and would work toward protecting wildlife in their environments and drying up demand for trafficked goods.

“We are increasingly seeing wildlife trafficking has serious implications for the security and prosperity of people around the world,” said Clinton at the event last November. “Local populations that depend on wildlife, either for tourism or sustenance, are finding it harder and harder to maintain their livelihoods. And we have good reason to believe that rebel militias are players in a worldwide ivory market worth millions and millions of dollars a year.”

Former Secretary Clinton, along with Deputy National Security Advisor Ben Rhodes and Clinton Foundation Vice Chair Chelsea Clinton, will attend and speak at today’s event.

“The African Wildlife Foundation is glad to see the U.S. government and other countries around the world dedicating their attention, expertise, and resources to fighting this global scourge,” said Bergin. “It’s a war that can only be won if we—conservation groups, governments, the private sector, and individuals—join together in a coordinated effort and speak with one voice on behalf of wildlife everywhere.”

For over 50 years, AWF has provided support for communities and governments to increase their ability to monitor wildlife and oversee protected areas and a broad range of other critical conservation efforts. In recent years, AWF has significantly ramped up its anti-poaching work, including:

  • Providing paramilitary training, uniforms, and surveillance, as well as communications equipment and motorized transport to hundreds of scouts and wildlife rangers in nearly a dozen African countries, including Kenya, Tanzania, Cameroon, Senegal, Zambia, Zimbabwe, and South Africa;
  • Helping authorities coordinate anti-poaching efforts across national borders;
  • Funding canine detection units to sniff out rhino horn and elephant ivory in airports and other ports of entry in Kenya, with plans to expand efforts throughout Southern Africa;
  • Working with the U.S. government to prevent poaching of endangered wildlife and food sources;
  • Providing camera traps and other surveillance support for protected area authorities to monitor rhino populations;
  • Launching a celebrity-driven public awareness campaign in Asia to reduce consumer demand for rhino horn and elephant ivory; and
  • Launching a public awareness campaign in Africa to inspire and encourage Africans to stand up for and protect their natural heritage.

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Editor’s Note:

AWF CEO Patrick Bergin is available for comment on today’s announcement and the role the Advisory Council and Task Force will play in combatting the illegal wildlife trade. To schedule an interview, please contact Communications and Marketing Officer, Kathleen Garrigan, at kgarrigan@awf.org or +1 202 939 3326. Images and video available upon request.

About African Wildlife Foundation

Founded in 1961, the African Wildlife Foundation (AWF) is a leading conservation organization focused solely on the African continent. AWF’s programs and conservation strategies are based on sound science and designed to protect both the wild lands and wildlife of Africa and ensure a more sustainable future for Africa’s people. Since its inception, AWF has protected endangered species and land, promoted conservation enterprises that benefit local African communities, and trained hundreds of African nationals in conservation—all to ensure the survival of Africa’s unparalleled wildlife heritage. AWF is a nonprofit organization headquartered in Kenya and registered as a 501(c)(3) in the United States. For more information, visit: www.awf.org

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Mayu Mishina
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