US GOVERNMENT HAND OVER OF $3 million to fund South African anti-wildlife trafficking efforts

Simon Bloch

A pledge by President Barack Obama to fund South African anti-wildlife trafficking efforts to the tune of US$3 million will be fulfilled today when the US government commitment is handed over in a ceremony at its Pretoria Embassy in South Africa.

Obama made the pledge during his 2013 trip to Africa.

The funding has been allocated by the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs (INL).

“We applaud the efforts of the South African government in fighting these crimes and we look forward to continuing to cooperate with it to disrupt the criminal networks involved” said Joy Peters of the US State Department based in Pretoria.

The funding will be handed to the recipients by US Under Secretary for Economic Growth Energy and the Environment, Catherine Novelli.

“The focus her visit to Africa is largely on the environment” Peters said.

“She also recently visited Kenya where she attended the Africa summit in Nairobi, and Tanzania”.

According to a statement released by the State Department yesterday, record-high demand for illegally traded wildlife products, coupled with inadequate preventative measures and weak institutions, has resulted in an explosion of illicit trade in wildlife in recent years.

Like other forms of illicit trade, wildlife trafficking undermines security across nations. Well-armed, well-equipped, and well-organized networks of criminals, insurgent elements, and corrupt officials exploit porous borders and under-resourced institutions to profit from trading in poached wildlife.

“This clearly demonstrates the increased U.S. focus on combatting the scourge of wildlife trafficking, as laid out in the 2014 National Strategy for Combating Wildlife Trafficking” Peters told Independent News Group.

$750,000 worth of survival, surveillance, and investigative equipment has been ring-fenced for South African park rangers at the national and provincial levels to support their efforts to combat poaching and illegal wildlife trafficking.

$2.25 million will specifically fund efforts in South Africa to: assist law enforcement in conducting intelligence-driven investigations;

• build expertise that will help analyze and map the illicit wildlife trade to support proactive targeting of illicit networks;

• improve communications between counterparts in the wildlife and criminal justice communities; and

• assist the Government in building strong partnerships with neighboring African countries and consumer countries in Asia to ensure more regular coordination and the sharing of information related to wildlife trafficking.


Other recipients of the funding are

The South African Council for Scientific and Industrial Research, which will systemically analyze the law enforcement chain with a specific focus on identifying areas for improvement;

The Endangered Wildlife Trust, which – in collaboration with the African Wildlife Foundation and International Fund for Animal Welfare – will help improve transnational wildlife crime investigations and prosecutions within South Africa and the region, while increasing the number and severity of sentences for perpetrators;

George Mason University’s Terrorism, Transnational Crime, and Corruption Center (TraCCC), which will support South African authorities and law enforcement efforts globally in tracking and disrupting transnational horn smuggling networks;

The World Wide Fund for Nature South Africa (WWF-SA), which will provide wildlife and criminal justice sector stakeholders both within South Africa and internationally a forum to increase networking and communication. This project will also develop mechanisms to increase cooperation and the sharing of information to harness collective efforts to combat illegal wildlife trade.

Two weeks ago, in Montgomery, Alabama, the US department of Justice indicted two South African hunting safari outfitters, brothers Dawie and Janneman Groenewald, and called for their extradition from South Africa to face charges.

Besides the most serious charge, America’s far-reaching Lacey Act which allows the Americans to charge foreigners for crimes committed on foreign soil under international law, they were also charged with conspiracy to defraud American hunters, fraud, international money laundering, structuring banking details to avoid reporting transactions, violating South Africa’s environmental laws.

Dawie Groenewald, his wife Sariette and 10 others were charged with 1872 counts in South Africa in September 2010, including racketeering, money laundering and he illegal killing of rhinos, a protected species.

Their case has dragged on in South African courts since 2010. In July, it was postponed again, provisionally, until August 2015.

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