US House of Representatives passes wildlife act to combat illegal trade

The trafficking and consumption of rare and endangered species, including monkeys, is widespread in Vietnam as many still believe in the healing and medicinal qualities of the animals' body parts. AFP/File/MOHAMMED ABED

Animal Wellness Action says wildlife trafficking is a major transnational crime.

Animal Wellness Action said on Tuesday that the US House of Representatives passed the Rescuing Animals With Rewards (RAWR) Act, H.R. 97, which is the first stand-alone animal protection measures to pass the House in the 116th Congress.

“Wildlife crimes undermine national security and cause immense cruelty to animals,” said Marty Irby, executive director at Animal Wellness Action.

The organisation said the legislation would amend the State Department Basic Authorities Act of 1956 to authorise rewards for thwarting wildlife trafficking linked to terrorism and organised crime.

“We applaud representatives Vern Buchanan and Dina Titus for offering a creative way to crack down on these international crimes,” Irby said.

Animal Wellness Action said wildlife trafficking was a major transnational crime that was estimated to generate over $10 billion a year in illegal profits, and the drivers of the enterprise were often organised, sophisticated criminal enterprises, including known terrorist organisations.

“Wildlife trafficking is a nefarious and persistent threat to endangered animals across the world,” said US representative Buchanan. “The RAWR Act provides another tool to crack down on the billions of dollars generated by this illegal activity.

“Today Congress took a major step to put the world on notice that international wildlife trafficking will be treated as a serious crime,” said Titus. “This heinous practice decimates endangered species and generates billions of dollars for transnational criminal networks. Passage of this bill is an important bipartisan victory in the House, and I hope the Senate will move quickly to ensure that elephants, lions, rhinos, and tigers will be protected for generations to come.”

The organisation said the passing of the RAWR Act came following a recent House appropriations amendment championed by Animal Wellness Action and the Animal Wellness Foundation that passed by a vote of 239 to 192 to bar imports of sport-hunted trophies from elephants and lions, both listed as threatened or endangered across their range. Buchanan led that amendment and Titus supported it.

-African News Agency

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