Obama steps up aid to save Africa’s animals

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President Obama issued an executive order Monday targeting the illegal trafficking of elephant tusks, rhinoceros horns and other products from protected animals in Africa, saying the poaching and trafficking is threatening the continent’s iconic wildlife and must be stopped.

Speaking at a joint news conference with Tanzanian President Jakaya Kikwete in Dar es Salaam, Mr. Obama said that the animals of Africa have made the continent a destination for travelers from across the globe, calling the wildlife “inseparable from Africa’s identity and prosperity.”

“Poaching and trafficking is threatening Africa’s wildlife, so today I issued a new executive order to better organize U.S. government efforts in this fight so that we can cooperate further with the Tanzanian government and others,” Mr. Obama said. “And this includes additional millions of dollars to help countries across the region build their capacity to meet this challenge, because the entire world has a stake in making sure that we preserve Africa’s beauty for future generations.”

Mr. Obama also announced a new trade initiative with the East Africa Community (EAC) — which is comprised of Burundi, Kenya, Rwanda, Tanzania, and Uganda — that aims to double the intraregional trade between those countries and increase their exports to the U.S. by 40 percent.

“We are looking at a new model that’s based not just on aid and assistance but trade and partnership,” Mr. Obama said at the news conference. “Ultimately the goal here is for Africa to build Africa for Africans. Our job is to be a partner in that process.”

Mr. Obama’s remarks came during the final leg of a six-day, three-nation swing through Africa, where he has visited the Robben Island jail that held Nelson Mandela for 18 years and pledged $7 billion for a “Power Africa” initiative that aims to increase access to electricity in sub-Saharan Africa.

Mr. Obama received a hero’s welcome Monday in Tanzania. Crowds lined the main road from the airport, in some places six people deep, hoping to catch glimpse of the president on his way to meet with Mr. Kikwete, where he announced his anti-pouching order.

The $10 million effort establishes a Presidential Task Force on Wildlife Trafficking to produce a national strategy for supporting antipoaching efforts, coordinating regional law enforcement efforts and reducing illicit trade in protected species. It also establishes an Advisory Council on Wildlife Tracking that is tasked with making recommendations to the task force.

“The poaching of protected species and the illegal trade in wildlife and their derivative parts and products (together known as ‘wildlife tracking’) represent an international crises that continues to escalate,” the order says. “Poaching operations have expanded beyond small-scale, opportunistic actions to coordinated slaughter commissioned by armed and organized crime syndicates.”

It states that the survival of the wildlife species — including great apes, tigers, sharks, tuna and turtles — have “beneficial economic, social and environmental impacts that are important to all nations.”

“Wildlife trafficking reduces those benefits while generating billions of dollars in illicit revenues each year, contributing to the illegal economy, fueling instability, and undermining security,” it says. “Also, the prevention of trafficking of live animals helps us control the spread of emerging infectious diseases.”

Grant Harris, senior director for African affairs on the national security staff of the White House, told reporters that the black market for illegal animal products yields $7 billion to $10 billion annually. He said that a rhinoceros can fetch $30,000 per pound and ivory goes for about $1,000 per pound

“In the last few years, wildlife trafficking has really exploded in terms of scale and also in terms of the types of poachers and organized crime networks that are involved in this activity,” Mr. Harris said.” And it’s decimating the populations of some of Africa’s iconic animals.”

Mr. Harris said the administration will seek to make to change regulations to make sure these products cannot be shipped into the U.S., which makes up the world’s second biggest market for such products — just behind China.

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