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Senate Committee targets wildlife traffickers through rewards program combating transnational organized crime

WASHINGTON (September 25, 2019)—In the Senate’s first consideration of a House wildlife bill in this Congress, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee today passed the Rescuing Animals with Rewards (RAWR) Act of 2019, S.1590, to thwart wildlife trafficking syndicates that threaten vulnerable wildlife and sponsor other criminal activities such as drug and human trafficking and terrorism.

Sara Amundson, president of the Humane Society Legislative Fund, said, “Wildlife trafficking not only threatens the welfare and survival of our world’s most vulnerable species, but it also threatens our national security as a significant funding source for terrorist groups and other illicit trafficking syndicates. The RAWR Act tells the world that the U.S. will not stand for this and gives the State Department the tools they need to stamp out the highly lucrative wildlife trafficking enterprise. We commend the leadership of Senators Jeff Merkley and Susan Collins for seeking to end the illegal wildlife trade and urge swift passage of this bill in the Senate.”

Senators Jeff Merkley, D-Ore., and Susan Collins, R-Maine, are the champions of this bipartisan legislation, which passed the House of Representatives in July.

The RAWR Act would officially incorporate wildlife trafficking into the State Department’s existing Transnational Organized Crime Rewards Program, authorizing the agency to offer rewards for information leading to the arrest, conviction or identification of significant members of transnational criminal organizations involved in poaching and the wildlife products trade The law also allows rewards for information that dismantles such criminal syndicates or leads to the disruption of their financial base, such as the financial systems that these activities are often linked to.

Additional information:

  • The RAWR Act passed the House of Representatives on July 15, 2019.
  • President Trump issued an executive order in February 2017 recognizing the serious consequences of transnational crime and affirming the U.S. government’s intention to prioritize enforcement against illegal smuggling and trafficking of illicit goods, including wildlife.
  • Wildlife trafficking is the fourth most lucrative criminal enterprise worldwide, generating an estimated $8-10 billion or more annually.
  • Evidence has demonstrated that criminal networks who traffic wildlife also traffic narcotics, arms and other illegal goods, including humans. Groups with terrorist connections have been found to engage in elephant poaching and smuggling illegal elephant ivory to fund their activities.
  • From 2007 to 2014, African elephants experienced a 30% population decline largely due to poaching.
  • Disrupting wildlife trafficking networks can shut down criminal endeavors that threaten not only imperiled wildlife, but also national security and global stability.

Media contact:
Emily Ehrhorn: 202-779-1814; eehrhorn@humanesociety.org

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The Humane Society Legislative Fund is a social welfare organization incorporated under section 501(c)(4) of the Internal Revenue Code and formed in 2004 as a separate lobbying affiliate of The Humane Society of the United States. The HSLF works to pass animal protection laws at the state and federal level, to educate the public about animal protection issues, and to support humane candidates for office. Visit us on all our channels: on the web at hslf.org, on our blog at animalsandpolitics.com, on Facebook at facebook.com/humanelegislation and on Twitter at twitter.com/HSLegFund.