Recently, I had the honor of taking part in an extraordinary event at the annual meeting of the Clinton Global Initiative (CGI) where nations and NGOs made a historic commitment to end elephant poaching by stopping the killing, stopping the trafficking and stopping the demand for ivory.
Wildlife trafficking is currently the fifth most profitable illegal trade (after drugs, human trafficking, oil theft and counterfeiting). Ivory is one of the most valuable wildlife products on the black market; it’s currently valued at more than US$ 1,000 a pound. In addition, it is virtually untraceable — as the domestic trade of ivory is still legal in some countries, it’s nearly impossible to tell its source or legality.
The illegal wildlife trade is a stark example of the direct connection between natural resources and both U.S. and global security. Wildlife trafficking, a $7–10 billion enterprise, funds terrorist groups like the Lord’s Resistance Army in Uganda, Darfur’s Janjaweed militia and Al-Shabab, the Somalian terrorist group responsible for last month’s horrific murders at a Nairobi shopping mall.
Former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton has been instrumental in bringing this issue to the world stage and highlighting the devastating impact poaching and wildlife trafficking have on African nations, as well as on world security. Her passion and dedication to stopping trafficking was evident earlier this year when she engaged in a discussion at our New York dinner with CI Vice Chair Harrison Ford, and spoke so eloquently about the devastation caused by traffickers who now arrive equipped with automatic rifles and other advanced technology.
Secretary Clinton and Clinton Foundation Vice Chair Chelsea Clinton were responsible for bringing us together to commit to stopping wildlife trafficking. They deserve our thanks and gratitude for putting this issue on the CGI agenda.
The current status of global elephant populations is unquestionably bleak. Last year alone, 35,000 elephants were brutally slaughtered for the ivory trade. If poaching continues at its current rate, the forest elephants of the Congo Basin are predicted to become extinct within a decade.