Please support legislation to crack down on wildlife trafficking and to make it a serious crime under U.S. law.
I am deeply concerned about the elephant and rhino poaching crisis in Africa and Asia, which has reached crisis levels in the last several years. In 2012, more than 30,000 African elephants were illegally killed for their tusks. In 2013, over 1000 rhinos were illegally killed in South Africa for their horns, up from just 13 animals in 2007 and a 50% increase from the previous year.
This growing poaching crisis is not only putting at risk populations of these animals in the wild; the criminal trade associated with it also has staggering human costs. More than 1,000 wildlife rangers have been killed in the last decade by poachers, and the poaching and illegal trafficking of ivory, rhino horn and other wildlife products are exacerbating corruption, destabilizing rural communities, and undermining tourism-based economies in several African countries.
This wildlife crime is now recognized as one of the top five transnational organized crimes--a multibillion-dollar illegal trade that is increasingly dominated by international criminal networks and has been connected to militant groups and organizations with terrorist ties, such as the Lord's Resistance Army and Al-Shabab.
The United States government can make a huge difference for elephants, rhinos and other trafficked species if it takes strong and urgent action. I urge you to support new and enhanced efforts to help stop these animals from being killed, crack down on the criminal networks that traffic in them, and crush the demand for illegal wildlife products, including ivory.
As the US Fish and Wildlife Service recently demonstrated by literally crushing the United States' six-ton stockpile of seized illegal ivory, we must take action both abroad and here at home.
The fact is the United States is the world's second-largest market for wildlife products, including elephant ivory. Once ivory has been brought into the US, it is difficult for law enforcement to determine whether it is legal or illegal. Smugglers take advantage of this system to sell poached ivory as carvings, jewelry and other trinkets.
Congress needs to help wildlife law enforcement personnel by ensuring they have the additional tools they need to apprehend, prosecute and convict wildlife criminals. This includes providing law enforcement agencies the resources they need to enforce our existing laws. It also includes updating U.S. law to enact stronger penalties against wildlife trafficking by making it prosecutable under statutes used for other serious crimes, including drug trafficking, racketeering and money laundering.
As your constituent, I ask for your help and your leadership to protect these iconic species and crush the illegal wildlife trade that threatens their survival. The poaching crisis is only growing worse, and the time for Congress to act is now.
Please support legislation to crack down on wildlife trafficking and increase the penalties for the criminals who engage in it.
WWF (World Wildlife Fund / World Wide Fund for Nature)
Last year, more than 30,000 elephants were slaughtered for their tusks, which are illegally sold as trinkets and carvings. And more than 1,000 rhinos were killed in South Africa so their horns could be ground up and illegally sold as fake miracle cures and ineffective fad drugs.
As the global poaching crisis worsens, these animals are being pushed to brink of extinction.
You can help stop this. Tell Congress to support legislation that cracks down on wildlife trafficking.