Note: Enough Project Intern Anuli Mefor contributed to this blog post.
H.R. 2494, The Eliminate, Neutralize, and Disrupt Wildlife Trafficking Act of 2016, has officially become law. Stamped with President Obama’s signature on October 7, 2016, this law will protect elephants, rhinos and other endangered species from a sophisticated international poaching and trafficking trade that is decimating animal populations worldwide and funding armed groups. The Enough Project is grateful for the bipartisan, bicameral leadership of Representatives Ed Royce (R-CA) and Eliot Engel (D-NY), and Senators Chris Coons (D-DE) and Jeff Flake (R-AZ), who championed the bill in the House and Senate. This law is a product of their continued dedication over the course of many years, President Obama’s leadership in the fight against the global ivory trade, and partnerships with various external advocacy groups. Oscar winning director, Kathryn Bigelow through her Last Days of Ivory video and event on Capitol Hill galvanized public support and helped illustrate the nexus between elephant poaching and human security.
In a press release, Senator Coons noted: “Passage of this legislation is a critical step forward in tackling the rapidly growing crisis of wildlife trafficking as demand for wildlife products has spiked in recent years,” said Coons. “Recent news about the African elephant population shrinking by 30% since 2007 largely due to poaching showed just how urgent this crisis has become. Not only are iconic wildlife species in grave danger of disappearing, but wildlife trafficking also fuels well-organized criminal networks, threatening global security.”
As noted in an Enough Project report, Tusk Wars, rebel groups and terrorist organizations such as Sudan’s Janjaweed militia, the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA), and the Séléka rebel movement in the Central African Republic, are all connected to wildlife trafficking networks. These groups are notorious for committing human rights violations including murder, rape, large-scale massacres, and the pillaging of various natural resources. The atrocities they commit contribute to the instability of a turbulent region and the spread of conflict across borders.
It is imperative to creatively utilize tools at the disposal of the United States to address the human toll of such illicit networks. This law creates real consequences on atrocity perpetrators sustaining themselves through wildlife trafficking by making making certain kinds of wildlife trafficking a predicate offense under money laundering statutes and supporting the professionalization of partner countries’ wildlife law enforcement personnel and park rangers.
The Enough Project thanks all who lobbied for this legislation on Capitol Hill during the Lemkin Summit and the thousands who joined various campaigns and emailed their Members of Congress to support the bill.