House Passes Bill to Combat International Wildlife Trafficking
This week the House approved legislation that will allow the U.S. and partner nations to counter terrorist organizations, rebel groups, and international criminal syndicates that profit from international wildlife trafficking.
The legislation adds violations to several criminal laws, including the Endangered Species Act, the African Elephant Conservation Act, and the Rhinoceros and Tiger Conservation Act, to include wildlife trafficking violations to the list of infractions that can trigger criminal liability under federal money laundering and racketeering laws. Money seized as a result of such violations would be transferred to the Multinational Species Conservation Fund.
The bill also empowers the State Department to withhold international aid to countries that support illegal trade in poached animals.
“With its high profit margins, the illicit trade of wildlife has become an extremely lucrative funding source for terrorist groups and international gangs. As rhino horn now sells for tens of thousands of dollars a pound, poaching is one of the most profitable criminal activities in the world,” Chairman Royce said upon introduction of the bill. “Tackling this growing problem conserves some of the world’s most iconic species and strengthens our national security. This bipartisan legislation will aid the global fight against the rampant poaching that is plaguing the world.”
“This legislation recognizes wildlife trafficking as the serious crime that it is and provides federal agencies with the enhanced tools and penalties they need to protect some of the planet’s most threatened wildlife from criminals who traffic in them,” said the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) in a statement following the bill’s introduction.
Companion legislation (S. 27) sponsored by Sens. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) and Lindsey Graham (R-SC) has been referred to the Senate Judiciary Committee, which has not yet taken up the bill.
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