Elephant poaching levels of twenty to thirty thousand per year are threatening to bring the animal to extinction in the wild in 20 years. Other species such as Rhinos, Lions, Tigers, Sharks, and recently Walruses are threaten for animal parts that are smuggled into the US illegally.
Pressure is being put on the US Congress from a number of organizations to address the issue. One organization is US Fish & Wildlife, which crushed 6 tons of Ivory in 2013 in Denver and another ton in New York in 2015 to bring attention to the vast amount Ivory being smuggled into America. Reports ask for tougher laws to "End Ivory Funded Terrorism" as reports indicate that Ivory is being used as a currency to buy weapons.
Attention started in September 2013 when unidentified gunmen attacked the Westgate shopping mall in Nairobi, Kenya. The attack resulted in at least 67 deaths, and more than 175 people were reportedly wounded in the mass shooting. The Islamist group al-Shabaab claimed responsibility for the incident. Kenya is home to the Great Tusker Elephants, a prime target for poachers. Who sell the ivory to terrorist groups and organized crime.
Stanford University issued a report last year advocating increasing the penalties for Wildlife Trafficking. In May of 2015, Pope Francis issued an encyclical; "Laudato si" which called for better stewardship of the other species on the Earth.
In January 2015, Senators Lindsay Graham, and Diane Feinstein co-sponsored S-27, called the Wildlife Trafficking ACT, in the Senate. In May Ed Royce introduced HR-2494 in the US House of Representatives. As of Oct 15, 2015 S-27 has four additional co-sponsors and HR-2494 has 101 co-sponsors with 218 needed for passage.
HR-2494 states 2.(1) Poaching is an estimated "$7 billion annual" industry . 2.(2) "Poaching has escalated in violence, risking the potential extinction of some of the world’s most iconic species." 2. (9) "Reporting indicates that a number of rebel groups and terrorist organizations, including Sudan’s Janjaweed militia, the Lord’s Resistance Army, the Seleka rebel ..., and Somalia’s al-Shabaab, "
Al-Shabaab has called for an attack on the Mall of America.
On June 25th, HR-2494 was ordered to be reported to the full house by Unanimous Consent by the House Foreign Affairs Committee.
In early June, the House Judiciary referred it to the Subcommittee on Federal Lands. At the same time the House Natural Resources Committee also sent it to a sub-committee.
The Bill states: " (4)Researchers conservatively estimate that some 22,000 African elephants were poached in 2012 alone, leaving the current population of elephants around 400,000, down from approximately 1.3 million in 1979. (5) An average of 14 rhinos were killed annually by poachers in South Africa between 1990 and 2005, but more than 1,200 rhinos were poached in South Africa alone in 2014. and (6) Fewer than 3,200 tigers remain in the wild and these remaining wild tigers are under heavy threat of poaching for their skins, bones and other body parts."
"Sense of Congress.—It is the sense of Congress that in the process of strengthening and expanding wildlife enforcement networks, the appropriate agencies should— ....(5) facilitate the sharing of intelligence and relevant case information within the agencies of a wildlife enforcement network; (6) support the cooperation and coordination between different regional wildlife enforcement networks; (7) incorporate and utilize expertise from international bodies and civil society organizations that have appropriate subject matter expertise; and (8) eventually create an institutionalized, sustainable, and self-sufficient platform."
HR-2494 currently has 101 co-sponsors: 40 Republican and 61 Democrat. A map showing support by state and party can be found at www.AWE.news.