WASHINGTON, D.C. – This week, U.S. Agency for International Development Assistant Administrator Eric Postel will represent USAID at the London Conference on Illegal Wildlife Trade, which brings together more than 35 heads of state, foreign ministers, and other high-level government officials to bring global attention to the crisis of wildlife trafficking and discuss solutions for combating this pernicious illegal trade.
According to Assistant Administrator Postel, “The talks here in London are the latest indication of the growing political momentum to address the wildlife trafficking crisis, with the recognition that trafficking in wildlife poses a serious threat not only to biodiversity and wildlife populations but to sustainable development and global security. The National Strategy for Combating Wildlife Trafficking released February 11 by the White House demonstrates U.S. vision and commitment to addressing this issue of global concern. USAID is proud to support the Strategy with our work on the front lines against the traffickers to protect wildlife and communities” and will continue to address the root causes of this illicit and unsustainable trade.
The National Strategy for Combating Wildlife Trafficking establishes guiding principles for U.S. efforts to stem illegal trade in wildlife and strengthens the leadership of the United States in addressing the critical conservation and global security threat posed by the illegal wildlife trade. The strategy sets three strategic priorities: strengthening domestic and global enforcement; reducing demand for illegally traded wildlife at home and abroad; and strengthening collaboration with international partners, local communities, NGOs, private industry, and others to combat illegal wildlife poaching and trade.
Assistant Administrator Postel further noted the recent progress made to combat wildlife trafficking by commending the work of law enforcement officers from 28 countries who completed a global operation to combat wildlife poaching and trafficking, code named “Operation Cobra II.” The month-long operation and capacity building effort promoted cross-border law enforcement cooperation and resulted in more than 400 arrests of wildlife criminals and 350 major wildlife seizures across Africa and Asia.
Cobra II was supported by the Department of State, Department of the Interior, and USAID. Joint training exercises that led to Cobra II were conducted by the Special Investigation Group on wildlife trafficking, which has received technical and financial support from USAID. Operation Cobra II resulted in the seizure of 36 rhino horns, more than three metric tons of elephant ivory, over 10,000 turtles, more than 1,000 skins of protected species, more than 10,000 European eels, and over 200 metric tons of endangered rosewood. Among the many arrests were several wildlife kingpins.