Last week, President Obama completed his week-long Africa trip to Senegal, South Africa, and Tanzania, where he promoted an increased partnership amongst African nations and the U.S. He ended his trip in Tanzania where he focused on highlighting the country’s economic potential as well as combating illegal wildlife trade.
Tens of thousands of African elephants (Loxodonta africana spp.) are slaughtered every year by poachers who seek their tusks for the illegal ivory trade. African rhinoceroses are targeted for their horns, and intense poaching has nearly decimated the black rhino (Diceros bicornis) population. Currently, the market value for rhino horns is $30,000 per pound, and $1,000 per pound for the ivory from elephant tusks (Greenwire). The total global market from illegal wildlife trade is $7 billion to $10 billion a year, and growing. President Obama has pledged to curb the illegal wildlife trade before the African elephant and black rhino go extinct.
Obama’s plan to cut down on illegal trafficking of wildlife parts is an effort to stabilize African governments. He created a $10 million initiative that will train police officers and park rangers in Tanzania, South Africa, Kenya, and other African countries to fight organized gangs involved in poaching. The U.S. Department of State will provide the $10 million in regional and bilateral training, as well as technical assistance. A new executive order announced last week would set up a Presidential Task Force to create a strategy for stopping criminals from poaching and thus cut off the demand for ivory in other countries. In addition, the order would establish an Advisory Council on Wildlife Tracking, consisting of eight non-government individuals to oversee the Task Force.