Buchanan Wildlife Bill Passes U.S. Senate Panel
WASHINGTON — The U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee has passed Congressman Vern Buchanan’s proposal authorizing the State Department to offer financial rewards for information leading to the apprehension or conviction of wildlife traffickers around the globe.
Buchanan’s RAWR Act (Rescuing Animals With Rewards) would add wildlife trafficking to the list of criminal activities the State Department can target with financial rewards for whistleblowers.
“Wildlife trafficking is a nefarious and persistent threat to endangered animals across the world,” Buchanan said. “The RAWR Act provides another tool to crack down on the billions of dollars generated by this illegal activity. I was pleased to see this important measure take another critical step forward and urge Senate leaders to pass my bill and send it to the President’s desk for his signature.”
The RAWR Act passed the U.S. House unanimously in July. Last week, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee passed identical companion legislation introduced by Sen. Jeff Merkley.
In June, the House passed a separate Buchanan measure to protect endangered African lions and elephants by banning the importation of their dead carcasses into the United States to be mounted as trophies.
Endangered animals are subjected to some of the most horrifying acts of abject cruelty due to wildlife trafficking. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has stated that “thousands of wildlife species” are threatened by trafficking. Elephants, rhinos, giraffes, lions and other animals are targeted by poachers all over the globe. In the past few years, some of the gains of conservation of rhinos have been stalled due to a surge in poaching. Hundreds of lions are killed and mutilated for their claws and teeth each year. According to a report by National Geographic in 2018 , four young lions were found with their faces and paws hacked off.
Crimes related to illicit wildlife trafficking generates billions of dollars every year, much of which is funneled to terrorist groups. It is estimated that a kilogram of raw ivory is worth as much as $2,100, while a kilogram of rhino horn can fetch up to $65,000.
“It is imperative that we get this bill to the president’s desk as soon as possible,” Buchanan continued. “Terrorist groups rely on funding derived from this illicit industry. We need to do all we can to discourage this type of criminal activity.”
Terrorist organizations, including Boko Haram, use poaching as a main funding source to finance their other activities. Boko Haram alone has killed 25,000 elephants in a 10-year period.
Buchanan, co-chair of the Animal Protection Caucus, received an A rating from the Humane Society for his leadership and votes in 2018. He is also a past recipient of the Humane Society’s “Legislator of the Year” award. He recently opposed the Interior Department’s weakening of the Endangered Species Act. His strong record of defending animals also includes opposing weaker protections for the Florida manatee and panther, as well as urging the U.S. Department of Agriculture to restore a database of animal cruelty information that the Department removed suddenly and without notice.