“We currently face the risk of losing wild elephants during my lifetime. It’s an unbelievable statement. It’d be an unpardonable loss for humanity and the natural world. There’s no question: we need to take urgent action to save one of the planet’s most majestic species and address the security threat posed by insurgency groups and dangerous criminal networks whose trade in ivory and other resources funds their activities.” – President Obama
Since taking office, President Obama has taken big steps to protect wildlife both in the United States and around the world. African lions have been protected as endangered species, chimpanzees are being phased out of medical research, marine mammals will be kept in better, cleaner facilities, and across the country, wildlife populations are rebounding due to historic efforts to protect habitat and recover species threatened by extinction. In fact, under President Obama, we’ve protected more endangered species due to recovery efforts than any other Administration in history, including progress for humpback whales, Florida manatees, black bears, green sea turtles and the California condor.
In addition to these historic steps to restore wildlife, we’re committed to ensuring that the United States is a world leader in efforts to eliminate poaching and combat wildlife trafficking.
As a result of illegal trafficking, northern white rhinos are close to extinction and elephant poaching is at its highest levels in decades, with poachers killing one elephant about every 15 minutes. These illegal and dangerous practices pose a serious threat to security and stability in communities around the globe. As part of the President’s wildlife trafficking strategy, we have been working internationally to strengthen enforcement, reduce demand for illegally traded wildlife, build international cooperation and commitment, and identify new opportunities for public-private collaborations.
In celebration of World Wildlife Day, here are five ways that President Obama is stepping up to protect wildlife around the world.
At the beginning of this year, Department of the Interior Secretary Sally Jewell travelled to Gabon, Kenya and South Africa to encourage international collaboration to stop illegal trading that’s threatening wildlife around the globe. In Kenya, Secretary Jewell announced a new partnership, pledging to work together in the fight against wildlife trafficking and build on existing programs increasing support in the country. Her trip, following similar visits to China and Vietnam last year, builds on the Administration’s work with international partners and the engagement of the President’s interagency Task Force on Wildlife Trafficking, and the Advisory Council on Wildlife Trafficking.
In July 2015, President Obama announced a proposed rule which would result in a near-total ban on the trade of African elephant ivory in the United States. The rule would prohibit most interstate commerce of ivory and restrict commercial exports. Additionally, in September, President Obama negotiated a similar commitment for a near-total ban from China. To show the Administration’s commitment to fighting the illegal trade of ivory and raise consumer awareness, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has also joined with wildlife and conservation organizations to host “Ivory Crush” events in New York City and Denver.
In addition to working within our borders to combat wildlife trafficking, the Administration’s Tran-Pacific Partnership (TPP) will put the strongest environmental standards in place of any international trade deal ever. The TPP includes commitments to expand conservation laws and increase enforcement to stop illegal wildlife trafficking and will protect animals around globe, including elephants, rhinos, pangolins, tigers and hammerhead sharks.
Following his trip to Kenya last year, President Obama called on individuals, corporations and nonprofits around the world to join us in this effort. Since then, many businesses have responded to the President’s call and have taken big steps to raise awareness and reduce demand for illegal wildlife products. Today, a coalition of major companies, non-profit organizations, foundations, and major private sector companies from across the country are pledging new support for protecting wildlife and ending wildlife trafficking. This spring, the White House will convene these leaders to discuss ways to continue to build on this work, raise awareness and reduce demand for illegally traded wildlife.
President Obama has also taken big steps to fight illegal fishing and ensure that we’re eating sustainably caught fish across the country. In addition to proposing the country’s first-ever seafood traceability program to track fish from when it’s caught to when it’s imported or sold in the United States, we have also enacted new rules to protect marine mammals like dolphins and whales. The TPP also includes strong measures to fight illegal fishing, promote sustainable fisheries management practices, reduce marine pollution, and protect threatened marine species such as sharks and sea turtles.