WASHINGTON – To further President Obama’s National Strategy for Combating Wildlife Trafficking, U.S. Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell led a White House roundtable meeting yesterday with leaders from top U.S. companies that are taking significant steps to help change consumer buying behavior and reduce demand for illegal wildlife products. Joining Jewell were U.S. State Department Under Secretary for Economic Growth, Energy, and the Environment Catherine Novelli; and U.S. Wildlife Trafficking Alliance Chair David J. Hayes. The e-commerce/Internet technology sector was represented at the invitation-only meeting by Jason Finger, CEO of LiveAuctioneers.com; and decision-makers from Google, eBay and Etsy.
The meeting comes less than a month after the U.S. Wildlife Trafficking Alliance announced, on World Wildlife Day, 16 commitments from major corporations to help in the fight against wildlife trafficking.
“We are committed to a multi-pronged fight against wildlife trafficking and part of the solution means reducing demand and sales of illegal wildlife products right here at home,” said Secretary Jewell, co-chair of the President’s Task Force on Wildlife Trafficking. “Together with the commitments that corporate partners are making, we are taking a firm stance against the killing and trafficking of rare and iconic wildlife. These corporate leaders are helping to educate the buying public and working to craft better business practices that we hope will continue to influence industry and trade.”
The meeting included business leaders from a number of industries in addition to e-commerce, including luxury apparel and accessories, hospitality and travel. There were key executives in attendance from Tiffany & Co., Ralph Lauren, Rio Grande, Inc., the Richline Group, JetBlue Airways, Royal Caribbean Cruises, Ltd., Natural Habitat Adventures, the Adventure Travel Trade Association, Discovery Communications, the Association of Zoos & Aquariums, the Bronx Zoo and others.
The illegal wildlife trade is threatening the survival of many species in the wild. In a recent three-year period, approximately one fifth of the entire African elephant population – 100,000 elephants – were killed for their ivory. Critical rhinoceros populations in South Africa also are being killed at a rate of more than three a day. Since 2008, nearly 6,000 rhinos have been poached in Africa, which is more than one-fifth of Africa’s remaining rhinos.
The Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) Agreement, which is currently under public and Congressional review, includes the strongest international commitments to fight the illegal trade in endangered species of any trade agreement in history. By increasing enforcement, enhancing information-sharing, and mandating action, the Obama Administration is working with other countries to cut off supplies of illegal ivory, rhino horn and other items with the end goal of saving the world’s iconic species.
Later in the day, Jewell gave remarks at a Wildlife Trafficking public afternoon forum at National Geographic, where additional corporate commitments were announced from: Carnival Corporation, the largest leisure travel company in the world; Ben Bridge Jeweler, a leading U.S. jewelry retailer; Brilliant Earth, the global leader in ethically-sourced fine jewelry; and Hidden Treasure Tours, a New York-based worldwide tour operator. These businesses have agreed to use their own resources to share best practices, communicate with their consumers about the pervasive problem of wildlife trafficking in the U.S., and take additional steps to ensure their supply chains are free from illegal wildlife products.
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