Fortunately we don’t do too much politics here on Wild Animal News. To paraphrase one famous politician: sometimes you have to read a bill to find out what is in it.
That can be bad or good. Today it seems to be good. The recently passed (and signed) National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) actually contains substantial protections for wildlife the world over.
Passage was never an issue, as it cleared the House with 350 votes and the Senate with 80. Of course there was squabbling and some question over whether President Joe Biden would sign it, which he eventually did.
Most of the news coverage is about guns, bombs, rockets, and paychecks but the bill also includes less discussed provisions that have conservationists pleased.
First, it once and for all removes American participation in shark-finning. That is the practice of removing a living shark’s fins for oil or food, condemning the shark to death. American fisherman were forbidden to fin sharks before but now Americans will no longer be able to buy or sell shark fins.
Second, it renews the END Wildlife Trafficking Act and the Tropical Forest and Reef Conservation Act. The End Act coordinates efforts by the Secretary of State, the Secretary of the Interior and the Attorney General. A total of 17 federal agencies work to “End, Neutralize and Disrupt” illegal animal trading. The reef act allows eligible nations which owe the United States money to relieve the debt by conservation measures that can be profitable to that country.
How these acts intersect with the Defense Department was clarified in a statement by the World Wildlife Federation.:
“The inclusion of these provisions in the NDAA is a recognition of the significant impacts that illegal trade and overexploitation of natural resources can have on Americans’ economic and security interests. Trafficking in wildlife, timber, and fish are transnational organized crimes worth tens of billions of dollars a year that help finance criminal networks and undermine law-abiding businesses in the forest and seafood sectors.
“By ensuring legal and sustainable trade and helping to conserve the developing world’s richest and most biodiverse landscapes and seascapes, this legislation will support U.S. efforts to promote stability and improve the livelihoods of local communities.
“This set of wins for forests, oceans, and wildlife demonstrates once again strong bipartisan support for conservation and the importance that nature must play in ensuring a secure and prosperous future for people as well as the planet.”
Illegal wildlife and fishing are estimated to be criminal enterprises making billions of dollars. Some place them in a triad with drug and gun running.
A famous example is the late drug lord Pablo Escobar whose lavish lifestyle included vast mansions and illegal wildlife trade. Escobar imported hippopotami to Colombia. They are reproducing and disrupting the local environment. We have also reported on how the theft of cheetah cubs is driving that cat closer to extinction.