Press Releases

Significant ivory trafficking occurring inside United States; illegal poaching claims 8 percent of African elephant population annually

Washington—Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) made the following statement on today’s announcement that the Obama administration will implement a coordinated, multi-department strategy to combat wildlife trafficking:

“In December, I urged the Departments of Interior, State and Justice to take strong action to crack down on wildlife trafficking because our current policies have not been effective in reducing ivory trafficking and protecting vulnerable elephant and rhinoceros populations around the world.

“Today’s announcement of a coordinated, national strategy to end wildlife trafficking is a significant and positive step forward, and I urge these departments to work as quickly as possible to implement this critically important plan.

“Unfortunately the international poaching crisis continues to worsen every single day, and these departments would benefit from stronger tools to prevent transnational wildlife crimes.

“It is my intention to introduce legislation to enact stronger penalties against wildlife trafficking by making it prosecutable under statutes used for other serious crimes—including drug trafficking, racketeering and money laundering. This legislation—which is called for in the strategy announced today—gives law enforcement agents and prosecutors the tools they need to investigate and prosecute serious wildlife trafficking crimes and send a clear message to the world: The United States will not tolerate these despicable crimes that are decimating the population of elephants and rhinoceroses around the world.”

Elephant and rhinoceros poaching has increased dramatically in recent years—fueled by the demand for ivory in the United States. According to the African Wildlife Foundation, approximately 8 percent of the 470,000 remaining African elephants are poached illegally each year.

Since 2010, this level of poaching is above the natural reproductive rates of elephants. According to the State Department, wildlife trafficking is estimated to bring in profits of at least $8 billion to $10 billion annually, ranking just behind international criminal trafficking of drugs, money and humans.