Maria Abaca discusses the United States government’s pledge to assist the nation of Tanzania with its efforts to combat illegal wildlife trafficking.
President Obama declared that the United States government will help support efforts to end the devastation of Africa’s wildlife by poachers and traffickers.
During his state visit to Tanzania, the president pledged $10 million for the purpose of creating a task force specifically for combating the illegal trafficking of endangered wildlife. Said the president:
“Poaching and trafficking is 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. And this includes additional millions of dollars to help countries across the region build their capacity to meet this challenge, because the entire world has a stake in making sure that we preserve Africa’s beauty for future generations.”
The trade in illegal wildlife produces more revenue for the traffickers than narcotics or the international sex trade. Conservationists have been eager for President Obama to address the wildlife issue in Tanzania, since the Tanzanian government has itself earmarked funds for the construction of a highway that would connect the Indian Ocean coast through the Serengeti to outposts in Uganda, Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo. According to the site savetheserengeti.org, if the Serengeti Highway is constructed, the disruption of the natural ecosystem would be catastrophic. It would not only include the obstruction of the natural migratory route of the indigenous animals in the area, but would also introduce fatal diseases to the wildlife vegetation and create an optimum environment for poachers.
More than 10,000 African elephants are killed in Tanzania every year, accounting for one third of the total poaching deaths throughout Africa. The rhinoceros is also a valuable commodity for its horn, and has been dwindling since the turn of the 20th century (there were more than 500,000 at the start of the 20th century, and only 29,000 in the world today).
The illegal international wildlife trade does more than just threaten species of endangered animals; the traffickers also have ties to terrorist cells and illegal arms dealers. The poachers are armed with far more than machetes and the occasional rifle; they are equipped with military issued automatic weapons, night vision goggles and even helicopters. The wildlife agents assigned to protect the animals from poachers are often outgunned and nearly powerless against airborne snipers shooting down at the rhinos and elephants from the skies.
It is extremely important that the rest of the world gets involved in the eradication of wildlife trafficking, not only in terms of aid, funding and awareness, but also by refusing to fund these organizations by purchasing the wildlife contraband. Is a tiger rug or a carved piece of ivory worth the threat to not only an entire species of animals, but also human kind?