Office of the Secretary
U.S. Department of the Interior
January 29, 2016
Contact: Jessica Kershaw (Interior): Interior_Press@ios.doi.gov
South Africa marks last stop on three-country visit as part of Obama Administration’s work to stop illegal trade that threatens to wipe out elephants, rhinos, other iconic species
PRETORIA, South Africa – U.S. Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell, co-chair of President Obama’s Task Force on Wildlife Trafficking, concluded an official visit to Africa this week with a final stop in South Africa where she met with senior government officials to discuss ways the United States and the African country can work together to combat the world’s growing illegal trade in wildlife that is driving several species toward extinction.
“We know that if we are going to address this scourge, it will require international cooperation at all levels of government,” said Secretary Jewell. “Together we can ensure these magnificent creatures will be here for future generations, driving tourism revenue and supporting conservation that is sustainable for both rural communities and wildlife. The United States is committed to deepening our partnerships with African countries to address this growing, international challenge.
Secretary Jewell and U.S. Embassy Pretoria Chargé d’ Affaires Catherine Hill-Herndon met with Minister of Science and Technology Naledi Mandisa Pandor, Minister of Environmental Affairs Edna Molewa, Chinese Ambassador to South Africa Tian Xuejun, and CEO of South African National Parks (SANParks) Fundisile Mketeni.
Secretary Jewell also held a roundtable discussion on wildlife trafficking with non-governmental organizations and conservation leaders, and visited Kruger National Park, the largest game reserve in South Africa and home to over half the world’s population of rhinos. At the park, she visited a recent wildlife crime scene with Minister Malewa to better understand the nature of these crimes and the potential for collaboration to reduce poaching and the illegal trade in wildlife products in the future.
There are hundreds of species on the South Africa endangered species list, including the African elephant, African lion, cheetah, black rhinoceros, and the white rhinoceros. South Africa is also home to more than 90 percent of the world’s 20,000 white rhinos and 40 percent of the world’s 5,000 remaining black rhinos.
South Africa and the Interior Department’s longstanding cooperative relationship, beginning in 1990s, has supported conservation activities in the nation by providing technical assistance with projects such as poaching and trafficking prevention, and staff and personnel exchanges involving the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, U.S. National Park Service and U.S. Geological Survey. Between 1995 to 2015, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service invested nearly $3 million for conservation activities in South Africa, which helped leverage $18.5 million in outside funding.
Secretary Jewell’s visit to Africa follows her meetings in China and Vietnam last summer in a similar effort to crack down on black markets at home and internationally. In November, Jewell also participated in bilateral meetings with senior officials from Gabon, Kenya and Namibia to discuss the countries’ shared commitment to addressing climate change, conserving protected areas and fighting wildlife trafficking in partnership with other consumer, transit and source countries.
The international outreach is part of President Obama’s National Strategy to Combat Wildlife Trafficking. The President’s July 2013 Executive Order established an interagency Taskforce on Wildlife Trafficking and an Advisory Council on Wildlife Trafficking. President Obama in July 2015 announced new proposed regulations to prohibit most interstate commerce in African elephant ivory and further restrict commercial exports, which will result in a near total ban on the domestic commercial trade of African elephant ivory in the United States. The Administration has also used two high visibility ivory crushes in Denver and New York City to shine a spotlight on this growing epidemic.
The Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) Agreement, which is currently under public and congressional review, includes the strongest international commitments to fight the illegal trade in endangered species of any trade agreement in history. While Africa is not part of the TPP, illicit wildlife parts and goods also pass through TPP waters, ports and countries. By increasing enforcement, enhancing information sharing and mandating action, the Obama Administration is working with other countries to cut off supplies of illegal ivory, rhino horn and other items and reducing poaching with the end goal of saving Africa’s iconic species.
Secretary Jewell made official visits to Gabon and Kenya earlier this week.