Secretary Jewell Praises New Alliance to Combat Wildlife Trafficking

Office of the Secretary

U.S. Wildlife Trafficking Alliance Builds on Obama Administration’s National Strategy to Combat Wildlife Trafficking

Last edited 8/28/2015

Date: August 5, 2015
Contact: Jessica Kershaw,

WASHINGTON – As part of the effort to stop the illegal trade of wildlife products in the United States, U.S. Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell today praised the formation of the U.S. Wildlife Trafficking Alliance that will bring together major companies, foundations, and non-profit organizations to work with the U.S. government in efforts to reduce U.S. demand for illegal elephant ivory, rhino horn and other wildlife products. 

The formation of the U.S. Wildlife Trafficking Alliance builds on President Obama’s National Strategy to Combat Wildlife Trafficking, put in place in 2014, following his Executive Order on combating wildlife trafficking.

A number of companies have already adopted policies and procedures that align with the goals of the Alliance. Companies such as eBay, Facebook and Google have been helping with initial Alliance activities. 

“We are committed to a multi-pronged fight against wildlife trafficking that includes working to reduce demand and sales of illegally traded ivory and other wildlife products right here at home,” said Secretary Jewell, who serves as co-chair of the President’s Task Force on Wildlife Trafficking. “To put an end to this scourge of killing and trafficking rare and iconic wildlife, we need the help of companies and others outside the government. Already, many companies are leading by example by raising public awareness and implementing best practices to support sustainable supply chains that avoid contributions to illegal wildlife trade. The creation of this Alliance will provide invaluable assistance in our fight. There is no question that how we deal with wildlife trafficking activities here in the United States will have an enormous influence on our global success in dealing with the crisis.”

Under the leadership of David J. Hayes, the Alliance brings together all elements of civil society, including interested companies, foundations, and non-profit organizations to work with the U.S. government to accomplish the goals of: 

  • Raising public awareness of the scope of the wildlife trafficking crisis, including the devastating impact of poaching and illegal trade on elephants, rhinos, tigers and other irreplaceable species, and the traffickers’ links to corruption, organized crime and terrorist organizations; 
  • Reducing consumer demand for illegally acquired wildlife and wildlife products by raising public awareness; and
  • Mobilizing companies to adopt best practices to ensure that their merchandise does not contain parts or products from illegal wildlife and that their goods and services are not being utilized by wildlife traffickers. 

Leaders at luxury apparel and accessory companies such as Tiffany’s and Berkshire Hathaway (owners of Ben Bridge Jewelers and the Richline Group) have also begun discussions with the Alliance. Nonprofit conservation, wildlife education and advocacy organizations also support the Alliance and are looking forward to working alongside fellow NGO’s, companies and the federal government, including National Geographic, the World Wildlife Fund, the Wildlife Conservation Society, the African Wildlife Foundation, WildAid, the Natural Resources Defense Council, the Wildlife Conservation Network, The Nature Conservancy-North America, the Humane Society of the United States, Conservation International, the International Fund for Animal Welfare, TRAFFIC and RESOLVE. Several leading foundations, including Vulcan, the Paul G. Allen Family Foundation and the Wyss Foundation also have been funding important anti-trafficking efforts in the U.S. and globally and are supporting the Alliance.

The White House expects to host a convening of Alliance leaders this fall in an effort to raise awareness, change behavior, and reduce demand for illegally traded wildlife. 

An estimated 100,000 elephants were killed for their ivory between 2010 and 2012, an average of approximately one every 15 minutes. Federal law enforcement investigations have demonstrated that wildlife traffickers are exploiting current regulations that allow legal trade in ivory to serve as cover for trade in illegal ivory. In one particularly high-profile investigation, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) special agents seized more than one ton of elephant ivory – one of the largest ivory seizures in U.S. history – from a Philadelphia art store. Much of the seized ivory, although disguised to look old, had been newly acquired from elephants poached in central Africa. Earlier this year, the owner of a seemingly legitimate Florida fine art auction house pleaded guilty to a wildlife trafficking and smuggling conspiracy involving objects made from elephant ivory, rhino horn and coral.

To close off this avenue to traffickers, President Obama recently announced that the FWS is proposing new regulations that would prohibit most interstate commerce in African elephant ivory and further restrict commercial ivory exports. This action, combined with others FWS has already taken, will result in a near total ban on the domestic commercial trade of African elephant ivory.

Last month, Secretary Jewell traveled to China and Vietnam to meet with senior government officials in both countries to build international cooperation to combat wildlife trafficking. Secretary Jewell will be traveling to Africa in the coming months to continue the dialogue with stakeholders about how to further strengthen global efforts to combat wildlife trafficking.