Historic U.S.-Africa Leaders' Summit Features Signature Panel Dialogue on Wildlife Trafficking

U.S. Interior Secretary Sally Jewell Hosts Discussion with Key African Leaders, U.S. Government Officials, National Advisory Council & Others to Discuss Strategies to Combat Transnational Problem of Wildlife Trafficking

Last edited 09/29/2021

WASHINGTON, D.C. – As part of the historic U.S. Africa Leaders' Summit, U.S. Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell, on behalf of the Obama Administration, today hosted four African heads of state including President Hifikepunye Pohamba of the Republic of Namibia, President Faure Gnassingbé of the Togolese Republic, President Jakaya Kikwete of the United Republic of Tanzania and President Ali Bongo Ondimba of the Gabonese Republic in a conversation on combating wildlife trafficking. The conversation also included several other African leaders, senior U.S. government officials from departments and agencies representing the Presidential Task Force on Wildlife Trafficking, members of the federal Advisory Council on Wildlife Trafficking, leaders of key non-governmental organizations and Young African Leaders Initiative participants.

Recognizing that the illegal trade in wildlife is a global challenge that demands a global response, the purpose of today's session was to build on the progress made since President Obama visited Africa last summer and identify areas where the U.S. and African nations can continue to work together. During the meeting, the four African leaders agreed to work with the United States to strengthen regional and international cooperation. They also discussed efforts within their respective governments to meet this challenge. Because wildlife trafficking undermines economic development, the leaders also addressed the need to engage local communities, including youth, in those joint efforts.

Like other forms of illicit trade, wildlife trafficking undermines security across nations. Well-armed, well-equipped and well-organized networks of criminals, insurgent elements and corrupt officials explore porous borders and weak institutions to profit from trading in poached wildlife. Record high demand for illegally traded wildlife products, coupled with inadequate preventative measures and weak institutions, has resulted in an explosion of illicit trade in wildlife in recent years. That trade is decimating iconic animal populations. Today, because of the actions of poachers, wild populations of species such as elephants and rhinoceroses have declined significantly and face the prospect of extinction across their natural habitat.

The United States has worked with African governments for years to strengthen their capacity to fight wildlife trafficking - providing training, equipment, uniforms and other tools to help them defend their native wildlife populations. The United States also helps protect Africa's natural resources by prosecuting criminals who traffic in endangered and protected species in the United States, including those who traffic in endangered rhinoceros horn and elephant ivory.

To address wildlife trafficking challenges, in February 2014, President Obama issued a National Strategy for Combating Wildlife Trafficking. The Strategy identifies three priorities for stemming illegal trade in wildlife: (1) strengthening domestic and global enforcement; (2) reducing global demand; and (3) building international cooperation and partnerships. In 2014, the United States will invest more than $60 million in support of these efforts.

Participants in the discussions included: U.S. Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell, President Hifikepunye Pohamba of the Republic of Namibia, President Faure Gnassingbé of the Togolese Republic; President Jakaya Kikwete of the United Republic of Tanzania; President Ali Bongo Ondimba of the Gabonese Republic. Senior U.S. officials included U.S. Under Secretary of State for Economic Growth, Energy and the Environment Catherine Novelli, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Director Dan Ashe, Acting Assistant Secretary of State Judith Garber, USAID Assistant Administrator Eric Postel and acting Chair of the Council on Environmental Quality Michael Boots. Also in attendance were representatives from President Obama's Young African Leaders Initiative (YALI).

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