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Wildlife trafficking: US initiative in Africa 'really about people' (+video)

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Obama kicked off his initiative in Tanzania Monday with the announcement of a $10 million program to provide training and technical assistance to sub-Saharan African countries that are finding their anti-poaching efforts are no match for the well-funded and heavily armed traffickers.

The new task force is supposed to deliver a national strategy for tackling wildlife trafficking and aiding countries, particularly in Africa, in their anti-poaching efforts, by the end of the year.

Obama used the backdrop of Tanzania and his three-nation Africa tour to announce his initiative because he said the threatened loss of the continent’s iconic wildlife to poaching also threatens Africa’s “identity and prosperity.”

In other words, the new initiative, though it has “wildlife” in its name, is really about people, some private-sector advocates involved in the plan say.

“We all recognize we’re talking about the economic future of the countries of Africa and Asia,” says Jeff Trandahl, executive director of the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation. “This is not all about animals, it’s really about people.”  

Others involved in the advisory panel that will advise US agencies on ways to address wildlife trafficking say the key to the initiative is that it aims to address each level of an expanding global market – one that, at an estimated $7 billion dollars a year in illegal trade, is rivaling the global narcotics, arms, and human trafficking markets.

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