U.S. Congress To Consider Sanctions Against Nations That Traffic Ivory

<p>kikatani / <a class="checked-link" href="http://pixabay.com/en/elephant-africa-african-elephant-111695/">pixabay</a></p>
<p>kikatani / <a class="checked-link" href="http://pixabay.com/en/elephant-africa-african-elephant-111695/">pixabay</a></p>

A new bill introduced this week could allow the U.S. to impose sanctions on countries that refuse to enact anti-poaching laws, essentially forcing those governments to save their wildlife - before it's too late.

The legislation, called the Targeted Use of Sanctions for Killing Elephants in their Range (TUSKER) Act, was introduced by Congressman Peter DeFazio, a member of the House Natural Resources Committee. In a statement, Rep. DeFazio said:

"As many as 40,000 elephants were slaughtered in 2013 alone for their tusks and over 1,000 park rangers have been killed trying to protect endangered wildlife. The illegal wildlife trade funds the operations of gun, drug and human trafficking crime syndicates. It also funds extremely dangerous terrorist groups that threaten regional stability in Africa and national security in the United States. We need to choke off the access to the market. My legislation sends a strong message-- if countries permit this illegal trafficking, there will be economic consequences."

Conservationists praised the proposed legislation, saying that it could be a powerful tool to motivate both countries that have loose poaching regulations, as well as countries that have loose ivory trade regulations. If the bill is passed, the U.S. could target countries that have been implicated for their involvement in the ivory trade. These include China, Malaysia, Philippines, Thailand, Vietnam, Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda - though this list could be revised at the next meeting of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) in 2016.

The sanctions would cut off trade for other wildlife products - things like wildlife skins and trophy hunts that rake in money for those countries. Adam M. Roberts, CEO of Born Free USA, told The Dodo that the sanctions could provide a powerful incentive to prosecute ivory traders.

"The countries implicated in the ivory trade – those that are not doing enough to stop the poaching and reduce demand, will be expected to increase law enforcement, bolster customs operations to uncover trafficking operations, prevent ivory from being re-exported," he said.

Now, the bill will have a hearing in the Natural Resources Committee in the House. Roberts and other wildlife groups hope that a companion bill will be introduced in the Senate as well.

"The elephant poaching crisis has reached historic levels and, shockingly, some elephant populations face extinction in our lifetime," said Roberts. He added, "It's the perfect time to do this."

Roberts is right - some conservationists warn that elephants could go extinct by 2025 if current poaching rates continue.

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