Secretary Jewell Announces New Partnership with Kenya to Combat Wildlife Trafficking

Memorandum of Understanding to aid international collaboration and cooperation, part of Obama Administration’s work to address the illegal trade that threatens to wipe out elephants, rhinos, other iconic species

Last edited 09/29/2021

Date: January 28, 2016
Contact: Jessica Kershaw (Interior),

NAIROBI, Kenya – U.S. Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell, co-chair of President Obama’s Task Force on Wildlife Trafficking, concluded an official visit to Kenya after formalizing new partnerships in the global fight to combat the illegal trade in wildlife that is driving several species towards extinction. In a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) signed between the United States and Kenya, both countries pledged to work collaboratively to slow the growing worldwide scourge.

The U.S. Department of the Interior, in partnership with USAID, will deepen its existing programs to work with the Kenyan government and civil society to build on recent successes in the country. The support will provide resources, technical expertise and equipment to combat wildlife trafficking, increase communication, improve natural resources management, and support efforts to promote biodiversity conservation in conjunction with sustainable economic activities. 

“Many African countries are taking bold steps to combat wildlife trafficking within their borders, but this growing international epidemic requires leadership across governments to put an end to the crisis,” said Secretary Jewell. “By strengthening our strategic partnership with Kenya, we will work together to crack down on this illegal trade that is threatening to wipe out entire species and push others to the brink of extinction. This is an international problem that requires international solutions and we will continue to work with concerned African leaders who have shown the leadership and commitment to put an end to wildlife trafficking.”

Jewell and U.S. Ambassador to Kenya Robert F. Godec met with Kenya President Uhuru Kenyatta; Cabinet Secretary of the Ministry of Environment, Natural Resources and Regional Development Authorities Professor Judi Wakhungu; Chairman of the Kenya Wildlife Service Board of Trustees Dr. Richard Leakey; and other senior government leaders.

Jewell held a roundtable discussion on wildlife trafficking with non-governmental organizations and conservation leaders, and participated in a wreath laying ceremony at Kenya Wildlife Service’s Conservation Heroes Monument to honor rangers who have lost their lives in the line of duty. Jewell also visited the Port of Mombasa, East Africa’s largest port and a major transit hub for illegal wildlife destined for Asia; and Lewa Wildlife Conservancy, where innovative conservation and security approaches have resulted in a decrease in elephant poaching and an increase in the population of rhinos and Grevy’s zebra. In Lewa Wildlife Conservancy, Secretary Jewell signed a Memorandum of Understanding between the Department, the Northern Rangelands Trust and USAID to further the partnership that is reducing wildlife trafficking and conserving species, while supporting sustainable economic development for communities in the region.

Every year, tens of thousands of animals are poached in Kenya. Since 1980, the African elephant population across the continent has declined from 1.2 million to 430,000. The Grevy's Zebra has declined by more than 50 percent over the past 18 years, with its total African population estimated around 2,000, leading to its endangered status. The population of black rhino has also declined by an estimated 98 percent since 1960, and the Northern white rhino is on the verge of extinction with some of the very few animals left living in Kenya.

For more than 25 years, the Republic of Kenya and the Interior Department have worked together in support of conservation activities through technical assistance throughout the country, involving the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, U.S. National Park Service and U.S. Geological Survey. Between 1993 and 2014, FWS invested over $6.3 million for conservation activities in Kenya, which helped leverage $26.2 million in outside funding. In July 2015, the Interior Department’s International Technical Assistance Program began a new project of cooperation funded by the U.S. Agency for International Development, which facilitates cooperation on wildlife trafficking and biodiversity issues in Kenya as well as Tanzania and Uganda, and utilizes expertise from across Interior’s bureaus.

Secretary Jewell’s visit to Africa follows her meetings in China and Vietnam last summer in a similar effort to further work to crack down on black markets at home and internationally. In November, Jewell also participated in bilateral meetings with senior officials from Gabon, Kenya and Namibia to discuss the countries’ shared commitment to addressing climate change, conserving protected areas and fighting wildlife trafficking in partnership with other consumer, transit and source countries. 

The international outreach is part of President Obama’s National Strategy to Combat Wildlife Trafficking. The President’s July 2013 Executive Order established an interagency Taskforce on Wildlife Trafficking and an Advisory Council on Wildlife Trafficking. President Obama in July 2015 announced new proposed regulations to prohibit most interstate commerce in African elephant ivory and further restrict commercial exports, which will result in a near total ban on the domestic commercial trade of African elephant ivory in the United States. The Administration has also used two high visibility ivory crushes in Denver and New York City to shine a spotlight on this growing epidemic. The Secretary applauded Kenya’s ivory burn, which took place in 2015.

The Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) Agreement, which is currently under public and congressional review, includes the strongest international commitments to fight the illegal trade in endangered species of any trade agreement in history. While Africa is not part of the TPP, illicit wildlife parts and goods also pass through TPP waters, ports and countries. By increasing enforcement, enhancing information sharing and mandating action, the Obama Administration is working with other countries to cut off supplies of illegal ivory, rhino horn and other items and reducing poaching with the end goal of saving Africa’s iconic species.

Secretary Jewell will next travel to South Africa for the final portion of her visit to Africa.

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