Representatives from the United States and more than 70 countries met in London last week to discuss the illegal wildlife trade. The delegates promised to work together to protect endangered animals.
Experts estimate that the trade in endangered wildlife, including elephant tusks, rhinoceros horns and tiger bones, is worth $17 billion a year. Now, hundreds of kinds of animals are at risk of dying out.
Britain’s Prince William spoke at the meeting. He said he understood that many countries do not have enough resources for law enforcement officials.
“But I am asking you to see the connections, to acknowledge that the steps you take to tackle illegal wildlife crime could make it easier to halt the shipments of guns and drugs passing through your borders.”
Illegal ivory trade activity has more than doubled since 2007.
It has claimed many human lives. The International Ranger Federation reports that more than 100 wildlife protection officials died trying to fight poachers last year.
And rare wild animals have been pushed to the edge of disappearing. More than 1,300 rhinos were killed in 2015 alone. And the number of Asian tigers has decreased by 95 percent in the last 100 years. Their body parts are in demand for Chinese medicines and alcoholic drinks.
But it is not only big mammals that are at risk.
For example, the numbers of an endangered water frog from Lake Titicaca in Peru have sharply decreased in recent years. Thousands have been caught to make a juice that some people believe has medicinal uses. There is, however, no scientific evidence to support those beliefs.
Officials promise action
At the meeting, delegates supported the decision by China at the beginning of this year to close its domestic ivory market. The move is considered a major step in protecting the world’s elephant population.
Aron White is with the Environmental Investigation Agency in Britain. He said other animals need similar protection.
“This market was both stimulating demand for ivory and also enabling illegal ivory to be laundered through this legal trade. But that same issue still exists for big cats.”
Activists say existing UN rules on international organized crime can help fight the illegal wildlife trade. But they say those rules are not being used effectively.
United States Attorney General Jeff Sessions told delegates that the U.S. will give $90 million to programs that fight illegal wildlife traffickers.
He said, “These criminals must be and they can be stopped.”
The meeting attendees promised to work together to fight the illegal wildlife trade and recognize it as a serious and organized crime.
But it remains to be seen how quickly they will act on those words.
I’m Jonathan Evans.
Henry Ridgwell reported this story for VOA News. Jonathan Evans adapted it for Learning English. Mario Ritter was the editor.
Words in This Story
acknowledge – v. to tell or show someone that something such as a letter or message has been received; to regard or describe someone or something as having or deserving a particular status
endangered – adj. used to describe a type of animal or plant that has become very rare and that could die out completely
launder(ed) – v. to put something (usually money that you got by doing something illegal) into a business or bank account in order to hide where it really came from
tackle – v. to deal with something difficult
tusks – n. very long, large teeth that stick out of the mouth of an animal such as an elephant, walrus, or boar
domestic –adj. of, relating to, or made in one’s own country