The illegal rhino horn trade is one of the most potent and corrupt in the illegal wildlife trafficking arena, resulting in the death of at least 6,000 rhinos in the last decade alone, leaving only 25,000 rhinos remaining. Rhino horn is also one of the most profitable products on the illegal wildlife black market, considered more valuable than gold and platinum.

On November 12th, Al Jazeera held a special screening of the most recent edition of its documentary series: “The Poacher’s Pipeline.” In the film, Al Jazeera investigators follow the illegal supply chain of rhino horns from the fresh kill in Africa to their sale in Asia, specifically in Vietnam and China. The investigation revealed that the rhino horn trade is largely made possible because of its consumer base, which is comprised of high-level government officials and politicians from Africa and Asia.
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The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) 17th Conference of the Parties (CoP17) began this past week in Johannesburg, South Africa. Yury Fedotov, executive director of the UN Office on Drug and Crime, and John Scanlon, secretary-general of CITES, have both recognized the growing issue of wildlife trafficking. Fedotov and Scanlon have partnered to encourage a discussion on the necessity to increase anti-corruption efforts for wildlife trafficking at CITES CoP17.
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Yesterday, the Department of Justice announced that Dewey W. Willis Jr. plead guilty to federal charges for the illegal harvest of Atlantic striped bass from federal waters in 2010. It has been illegal to harvest the Atlantic striped bass, also referred to as a “rockfish” or a “striper,” from federal waters since 1990, due to the severe decrease in stock. Decrease in stock is the result of overfishing and environmental conditions since the 1970s. “The illegal poaching of striped bass by commercial fishermen has a major impact on the survival of this iconic fish resource and has the potential to devastate the future livelihoods of law abiding commercial fishermen,” said Assistant Attorney General John C. Cruden for the Justice Department’s Environment and Natural Resources Division.

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On September 21, 2016, The House of Representatives voted by unanimous consent to pass H.R. 2494, the Eliminate, Neutralize and Disrupt (END) Wildlife Trafficking Act. The bipartisan legislation, designed to combat the growing wildlife trafficking crisis, passed the Senate unanimously last week, on September 15.  The legislation is now before the President for signature.

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Today, the Departments of Justice, State, and the Interior, co-hosted a panel discussion with the Presidential Task Force on Wildlife Trafficking to celebrate “World Wildlife Day.”

John C. Cruden, Assistant Attorney General for the Environment and Natural Resources Division, underscored the urgency of combating wildlife trafficking by reminding the audience, “If we don’t do better, we’re going to be telling our grandchildren what elephants and rhinoceroses used to look like.” It is this stark reality that reflects the magnitude of the international crisis in wildlife trafficking.
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