Rep. Royce, Senator Whitehouse Hold Bicameral International Conservation Caucus Event on Global Poaching Crisis
Nov 15, 2012 -
Today, Rep. Ed Royce (R-CA) and Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), co-chairs of the International Conservation Caucus, held a bipartisan, bicameral caucus hearing to address the global poaching crisis. Due to high demand in China, the market for ivory is at an unprecedented level. Described as an "epic elephant slaughter," tens of thousands of elephants are killed each year by criminal networks to fund their illegal operations.
"From al-Shabaab to the brutal Lord’s Resistance Army, we are seeing the worst of the world’s worst poaching elephants to fund their illicit activities," said Rep. Royce. "Park rangers are going to battle every day with these networks, facing AKs and RPGs. The transnational aspect of the illegal wildlife trade and the demand from Asia has elevated this problem from an ‘African problem’ to a global problem. There are dangerous terrorist connections. It is time we target these networks engaged in the illegal wildlife trade."
"Congress must work in a bipartisan fashion with the Administration to put an end to the unlawful killing of wildlife," said Whitehouse. "While all responses to this issue are important, investigating and prosecuting wildlife crime is a particular responsibility of governments. The conservation community has played a key role… but they cannot combat militias or take down transnational crime."
Testifying today, Dr. Michael Fay, an expert from the National Geographic Society and a Senior Conservationist at the Wildlife Conservation Society, warned that elephants in Central Africa may go extinct very soon. Garamba National Park in Congo once had more than 20,000 elephants, last year that number dwindled to 2,800, Fay noted. In Chad, yet another example of the impact of poaching, in 2005 elephants neared 4,000, but today there are under 500.
Joseph Kony, leader of the Lord’s Resistance Army, known for killing, mutilating and abducting children in the thousands, has encouraged his fighters to kill elephants and bring back the tusks to fund weapons. In Sudan, the janjaweed were suspected in one of the largest episodes of elephant slaughter earlier this year in Cameroon. Al-Shabaab, the al-Qaeda affiliate in Somalia, is training terrorists to kill elephants and bring back the ivory. One witness with a background in counterterrorism and anti-poaching operations pointed out that the ivory from just one elephant could pay for a terrorist attack on two U.S. embassies.
Senator Whitehouse is a member of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee. Rep. Royce is a senior member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee and a former Chairman of the Subcommittee on Africa.