The Enid News and Eagle, Enid, OK

September 26, 2013

Clinton pushes effort to protect African elephants

Ken Thomas
Associated Press

NEW YORK — Hillary Rodham Clinton outlined plans for an $80 million effort to curb the poaching and trafficking of elephants in Africa, warning Thursday that the continent's elephants could face extinction without swift action.

The former secretary of state and her daughter, Chelsea Clinton, announced the three-year project at the Clinton Global Initiative, telling activists and supporters that the killing of elephants to support the sale of ivory around the globe had reached a crisis point.

"Unless the killing stops, African forest elephants are expected to be extinct within 10 years. I can't even grasp what a great disaster this is ecologically, but also for everyone who shares this planet," the former first lady said.

Clinton, a potential 2016 presidential candidate, said losing the elephant to extinction "seems like such a rebuke to our own values."

The Clinton initiative aims to prevent the killing and trafficking of elephants and rhinos. It also hopes to address the demand for ivory in Asia and the United States.

Several conservation groups have banded together to prevent the slaughter, including the Wildlife Conservation Society and the World Wildlife Fund. They noted that trafficking has a national security element because some of the illicit proceeds have helped terrorist organizations.

The leaders of six African countries — Uganda, Burkino Faso, Gabon, Malawi, Ivory Coast and Tanzania — joined the Clintons at the event, pledging their cooperation, along with officials representing other African nations.

Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni said the nations would support a moratorium on imports, exports and sales of tusks and ivory until the elephant population is no longer threatened.

"It is time for the global community to act decisively against this plague," said Ali Bongo Ondimba, president of Gabon.

Clinton championed the protection of wildlife while at the State Department. Wildlife conservation groups have estimated that 35,000 elephants were killed illegally in Africa in 2012.

The project will support anti-poaching enforcement, including the hiring of an additional 3,100 park guards, targeting the trafficking of elephants, levying stiffer penalties for poaching and using sniffer dog teams at transit points.

"The big problem is that the benefits of poaching and selling ivory are far greater than the risk to the poachers," said chimpanzee researcher Jane Goodall, who said poachers do not typically face long sentences if apprehended.