DeFazio Introduces Legislation to Curb Illegal Ivory Trafficking
Washington, D.C. –Today, Ranking Member of the House Natural Resources Committee Peter DeFazio (D-Springfield) introduced legislation that would impose trade sanctions on countries that facilitate ivory trafficking. Ivory from elephant tusks contributes billions to the global illegal wildlife trade and funds organized crime and terrorist organizations.
“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,” said DeFazio.
DeFazio’s legislation, the Targeted Use of Sanctions for Killing Elephants in their Range (TUSKER) Act, was named in honor of Satao, a large-tusked (or tusker) elephant that was recently butchered by poachers in Kenya.
According to the UN Security Council, a number of terrorist organizations are funded in part by the sale of elephant ivory and other stolen natural resources. They include, Joseph Kony and the Lord’s resistance Army in Uganda, the Janjaweed in Darfur, and the Al-Qaeda linked terrorist group Al-Shabaab. Al-Shabaab claimed responsibility for a June terrorist attack that killed 58 people in Kenya and the deadly mall attack last year. It is reported to receive as much as 40% of its financing from the sale of illegal ivory and other poached wildlife.
The legislation is supported by many major international wildlife and conservation groups, including Born Free, the International Fund for Animal Welfare, the Natural Resources Defense Council, the World Wildlife Federation, and Humane Society International. Statements of support can be found below.
Adam Roberts – CEO, Born Free USA: The international illicit ivory trade is being driven by dangerous organized crime syndicates in Africa and Asia and must be stopped. Elephants continue to be slaughtered at record levels; heroic park rangers are literally laying their lives on the line to keep them safe; and national security in the most vulnerable parts of Africa is made more fragile. Congressman DeFazio deserves the full support of all Members of Congress for tackling this significant issue head-on.
Jeff Flocken - Regional Director, North America, International Fund for Animal Welfare: “Every 15 minutes, a poacher kills an elephant for its ivory. It’s a material that nobody—except for elephants—needs, and this new legislation from Rep. DeFazio is an important step toward ending the senseless violence and making the world safer for people and animals. The United States has the ability and the responsibility to promote conservation goals here at home and around the world, and efforts like this are crucial to protecting endangered wildlife for generations to come.”
Elly Pepper – Wildlife Advocate, Natural Resources Defense Council: “The illegal wildlife trade isn’t just an environmental issue—it’s a national security issue. International thugs, organized criminal syndicates and terrorists have used the multibillion-dollar trade in wildlife parts to raise funds for their nefarious activities. And that sets up a vicious cycle with only negative results: species extinctions, detrimental ecosystem impacts, and decreased national security. This bill is an important step in breaking that dangerous cycle.”
Ginette Hemley - Senior Vice President of Wildlife Conservation, World Wildlife Fund: “We fully support the goal of this legislation, which is to ensure the integrity of countries' commitments to prevent illegal trade in ivory. With the ongoing poaching crisis devastating many of the world's remaining elephant populations, it is critical we ensure that international agreements on wildlife trade such as CITES are effective, enforceable, and include penalties for those countries that consistently fail to uphold their commitments.”