Barack Obama launched a new initiative against wildlife trafficking on Monday, using his executive authority to take action against an illegal trade that is fuelling rebel wars and now threatens the survival of elephants and rhinoceroses.
The initiative, announced as the president visited Tanzania on the final stop of his African tour, was the second time in a week Obama has used an executive order to advance environmental policy, after announcing a sweeping new climate change plan.
Monday’s executive order would set up a presidential task force to draw up a new strategy for cracking down on the criminal gangs behind the explosion in trafficking, as well as choke off demand for elephant ivory, rhino tusk and other animal parts.
Estimates by conservation groups suggest the illegal trade in wildlife is worth up to $10bn a year. The executive order called for $10m to train police officers and park rangers.
The measures outlined in the executive order issued on Monday expands on existing American efforts to help countries in Africa fight off organized criminal gangs behind the poaching networks.
Within the last few months, the State Department and the United Nations have both declared wildlife trafficking as a security threat. “As we see criminal networks getting increasingly involved—you see poachers with night vision goggles and high-powered rifles—you also see some rebel militias trading in ivory and rhinoceros horn as source of currency and value,” Grant Harris, the state department’s Africa director, told reporters travelling with Obama.