The U.N. suspends Syrian peace talks until late this month. The U.S. plans to quadruple military spending in Europe as a signal to Russia. And American officials express concern about ISIS in Libya. A panel of journalists joins guest host Tom Gjelten for analysis of the week's top international news stories.
International wildlife trafficking has long been considered a critical conservation issue. Now the U.S. State Department has made it a foreign policy priority as well. Wildlife trafficking increasingly threatens the security, national health and economies of many countries. Poaching operations have become more large scale, sophisticated and organized. The black market in wildlife is second only to trade in drugs and arms. It’s a likely source of funding for transnational criminal networks, possibly even terrorist groups. Meanwhile demand has grown for furs, tusks, bones, horns and other illegal animal goods. Robert Hormats, Under Secretary of State for Economic Growth, Energy and the Environment, updates us on new efforts to raise awareness about conservation and stop illegal wildlife trafficking.
- Robert Hormats Under Secretary of State for economic, energy and agricultural affairs.
MS. DIANE REHMThanks for joining us. I'm Diane Rehm. Wildlife conservation groups estimate 35,000 African elephants were slaughtered in the last year. Rhinos are being poached at a rate of one every 18 hours. Only 3,000 tigers remain in the wild, and more than 25 million sharks will be killed for their fins. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has called for an international initiative to stop illegal wildlife trafficking. Here to explain what that involves in Robert Hormats, Under Secretary of State for Economic Growth, Energy, and the Environment.
MS. DIANE REHMI hope you'll join us with your questions and comments. Call us 800-433-8850. Send us your email to firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow us on Facebook, or send us a tweet. Good morning to you, sir. It's good to have you here.
MR. ROBERT HORMATSGood morning, Diane. Great to be back on your show.
REHMYou know, you have a rather large portfolio, economic growth, energy, and the environment. How do they all come together?
HORMATSWell, we reorganized the State Department. Secretary Clinton had something called a four-year -- an assessment essentially of the way the State Department was organized, and she concluded that she would be better off, and the government would be better off, and the State Department would be better off if she had under one individual the economic function, the energy function, and the environmental functions of the State Department.
HORMATSAnd they do interact with one another quite well, because a number of environmental issues have economic consequences. A number of economic issues have environmental consequences. Of course, energy has both environmental and economic consequences. So all three work together, and I work together with the heads of the bureaus, the assistant secretaries who deal with each of these. We meet frequently to make sure that what we're doing in one area reinforces what we're doing in the other areas.
REHMAnd it's interesting that you've made this transition because you were previously at the U.S. Department of -- U.S.T.R.
HORMATSI was at -- yeah. I started out at National Security Council staff, then the State Department, then U.S.T.R., and then the State Department again. And of course, as you know, I was in the financial world for 25 years, but when I came back, obviously I dealt with economic issues and energy issues, but I also have enormous passion for environmental issues. They're much more important to the world today than ever because of climate change, but also, this area of wildlife protection is a particular issue of passion for me since I lived in East Africa for a year and was for a period of time an assistant wildlife guide in some of the game parks.
REHMInteresting. You were on this program last month to talk about elephants.
REHMAnd the illegal ivory trade. But the problem seems so widespread now.
HORMATSAbsolutely. This is a crisis for the countries that are involved, and for conservation in general, but really for the world. The whole notion of slaughter of animals and trafficking in illegal wildlife has become more organized. It's become more lucrative. It's become more widespread, and it's become more dangerous than ever before. And as you correctly pointed out in your introduction, the slaughter has just increased dramatically for elephants, for rhinos, for tigers, polar bears, and a number of marine wildlife as well.
HORMATSAnd it's really part -- not just of a few poachers going around, this is organized crime. We have to call it what it is. In terms of volume, after drugs and arms, it's the third largest volume of illegal trade, and connected to all sorts of illegal groups, drugs, arm shipments, and we think there are connections to terrorist groups because they undermine the security of a lot of countries.
REHMSo give me an idea of the kind of money involved.
HORMATSWell, we're talking seven to $10 billion worth of illegal wildlife trade. Obviously it's very hard to quantify because they operate in the shadows, but the best estimates are in that range, includes, you know, rhino horns which fetch something like $30,000. People think that they cure diseases like cancer. Obviously they -- rhino horn powder does not, but people buy it for that reason. People buy ivory ornaments because they're prestige items. People buy tiger skins. People wear animal pelts.
HORMATSWe import -- this country, we're actually the second biggest importer of illegal wildlife, import birds for pets and things of that nature, and skins, and a variety of things also. So we have a responsibility as do other countries to work with the rest of the world to deal with this horrible situation.
REHMAnd do we know which countries are most involved illegally?
HORMATSWell, a large portion of the rhino horn powder, and a large portion of the ivory goes into East Asia, countries like China and Vietnam and other countries in East Asia. We import a number of things. Not so much those items, although we do import ivory. We import as I say a lot of wild birds and animal pelts from animals that are killed. So we're not going around simply accusing others. What we're saying is -- and the only way we can deal with this is to partner with other countries and say this is a global issue. Everyone has a responsibility. We all have to work together.
HORMATSAnd we're developing things, like we have the coalition against wildlife trafficking where we're trying to get other countries and NGOs and the private sector to work together. We have wildlife enforcement networks that we're developing and supporting in places like Southeast Asia and elsewhere. We have training centers in southern Africa is Botswana where we're working with South Africa and then maybe in Botswana and others.
HORMATSSo we're trying to do this as a partnership. And I was in China last week and had very good conversations with their Ministry of Forestry, which is the thing that works of protection of game in China like giant pandas, and we're trying to work with the wildlife experts in China to develop a partnership so we can work together.
REHMYou know, it's so interesting because China feels so strongly about its pandas for example, that that kind of concern doesn't spread to other wildlife forms. I mean, the rhinos, the tigers, the other forms of wildlife that China is so interested in importing.
HORMATSWell, we -- you're absolutely right. They have done a very good job of protecting wildlife in China, and the people who are working on this are the ones I had a chance to talk to to explain that there may be opportunities using their passion for protecting their own wildlife, translate that passion into preventing the import of illegal wildlife products like rhino horns and elephant tusks and ivory and many other things into China. And I must say, the conversations were quite constructive.
HORMATSThey are also a number of people in China who are very actively involved in this. There are a lot of NGOs in China, and I had a chance to meet with them and have a conversation about ways in which we could work together, and our NGOs and theirs could work together on this issue. So I think there's a possibility for constructive cooperation on this. Part of the problem is education. Many people are simply not aware that when you get -- when you buy an ornament made of ivory, an elephant has been killed to produce that ivory.
HORMATSIf you buy the tusk of a rhino -- the powder that is a result of that tusk being ground down for so-called medicinal purposes, a rhino has been killed. So part of it is education, part of it is enforcement, part of it is cooperation with other countries, part of it is cooperation with the supplying country so that east Asians and Africans can get together to work together to prevent the movement of money and the transit of these illegal products. And we need to work on that with them.
REHMSo this trafficking has really grown substantially. It's no longer a few poachers here and there, it's just all over the place.
HORMATSYes. That's the -- your absolutely right. That's the big change. It's not one or two poachers here and there. These poachers organize. They use helicopters. They shoot elephants from helicopters. They have AK47s. They have night vision goggles. And then when I heard about South Africa trying to deal with this, senior South African officials told me they were just outgunned. So we need to help them to deal with their own problems to have better policing, better support for their wildlife protectors throughout the country and other parts of Africa.
HORMATSIt's true in East Africa, Kenya and Tanzania, horrible slaughters on Cameroon and Gabon, so it's all over and it's just getting bigger and bigger, and as I say, it's organized crime. So we need to find out more information about how they move the goods, the products, how they move their money, share it with others and then crack down just as we do on drug trade and other kinds of illegal trade.
REHMI think it's interesting to learn that this has also become a threat to human life as well.
HORMATSAbsolutely. Over a hundred park rangers, wildlife rangers were killed last year protecting animals. So it's a danger to human life. It's also a danger to human life because some of these things like the ground horns of rhinos are sold as cures for disease such as cancer. So the people spend $30,000 a year for this so-called pharmaceutical product which is really not a medicine, not a cure for anything, instead of taking drugs they should take to address the problem of their cancer. So it's a death sentence for people who use these products, and for the park rangers.
REHMRobert Hormats. He's Under Secretary for Economic Growth, Energy, and the Environment at the U.S. Department of State. When we come back, we'll talk more, take your calls, your email. I look forward to speaking with you.
REHMAnd welcome back. If you just joined us, Undersecretary of State Robert Hormats is with me. His portfolio includes economic growth, energy and the environment. And we're talking about trafficking in wildlife, which is happening all over the world. There are an awful lot of people who believe that a major part of the responsibility belongs in China.
REHMHere is an email from Tim who says, "It's hard to put this any other way. Chinese demand for exotic wildlife parts is having a devastating impact on endangered species. This needs to be confronted forcefully and immediately from shark fin soup, to elephant tusk, to tiger skins, the Chinese demand for these is a clear and present danger to our vanishing endangered species." Would you agree the Chinese bear a large sense of responsibility?
HORMATSWell, that's certainly true that the Chinese have been a source of dramatically increased demand for all those items that were just mentioned. And they have, I think, a real responsibility to address this. And we -- when we talk to the Chinese, and I just did this last week, have concluded that the best way to work with them, simply accusing them is not going to necessarily lead to productive results.
HORMATSWhat we need to do is work with them to help them, A, understand the seriousness of the problem, B, strengthen their enforcement internally and at their borders, and C, help their people to understand how many animals die as the result of this. But also figure out -- follow on methods of engaging them in conversations to help them stop doing this. It's not that they don't have, as I mentioned earlier, their commitment to protect their wildlife. They do protect their domestic wildlife.
REHMTheir own wildlife.
HORMATSNow they have to translate that commitment to protecting international wildlife and simply stopping the demand for tiger skins or rhino horns or elephant tusks or sharks. Shark demand is actually going down quite substantially. I used to have shark fin in China. You barely see it anymore. So there has been real progress on the shark issue, but there needs to be similar progress.
HORMATSAnd we need to look at this as a way not just of using tough rhetoric with the Chinese, although, you know, there's obviously frustration on the part of many people about this increased demand. But the real way of making progress, and all the environmental groups believe the same thing. Every environmental group I talk to, the answer is not having a confrontation or a fight or having accusation vis-a-vis the Chinese, it is to find ways of working with them to get this problem resolved.
HORMATSTalk is one thing, but collective, cooperative action is the only way you can get results. And the environmental groups fully endorse that and are initiating those kinds of conversations.
REHMBut there must be a huge web of activity among these poachers, otherwise how would you transport these huge animal parts from country to country?
HORMATSThat's quite correct. This is syndicated organized crime, going from the slaughter of these animals. How do these people get AK-47s and helicopters? They cost a lot of money. And they cost a lot of money, but the people who engage in this illegal wildlife trade make a lot of money because the prices of ivory and rhino horns and tiger skins is very high. So they -- it's quite lucrative. So, how do they do it?
HORMATSThey get -- they buy the weapons. Transportation, they transport these things by ships illegally and in cartons that say something else to be sure. They're also sent by air in many cases. So what we're going to try to do increasingly is identify the way in which they're shipped -- the vehicles, the companies that are engaged in this.
REHMAnd then inspection?
HORMATSAnd go to them and insist on stronger inspection and commitment by them, by the airlines and by the shipping companies to be much more vigilant in inspecting these. And also, how do they move their money? We've done a lot of work on syndicated drug crime to help stop the illegal movement of money that supports the drug trade. In some cases, we've had some success. We're going to need to do that with respect to illegal wildlife trade.
REHMI wonder just how much the risk of spreading infectious disease is involved. For example, Ebola or SARS or monkey pox.
HORMATSYes. That is another risk. That is a risk to human health because many of these animals that are illegally transported or the parts of the animals could carry disease, and the sort of close proximity between humans and animals, particularly certain forms of wildlife could lead to the transmission of disease to human beings and that could spread to other human beings. So this is very much a health problem. Certain kinds of species have certain diseases, and the proximity to human beings of these illegal birds or animals could certainly cause spread of disease.
REHMSecretary Hormats, you've talked about crime and perhaps there are crime syndicates involved in all of this. What about terrorist organizations? Do you see their involvement because of the huge amounts of money?
HORMATSWe're trying to collect information on that at this point, but there's anecdotal evidence that, yes, they are connected to terrorist groups of various sorts. We would like to get more information to document this. But there is a very clear connection between the poachers, these people who slaughter these animals and certain groups of militias.
HORMATSThey take over swaths of countries that they control by bribing officials, bribing border guards, bribing people in the judiciary, bribing policemen so that there is already a process by which these illegal poachers, these people who slaughter these animals undermine the security of parts of countries, particularly throughout Africa where governments, in some cases, are relatively fragile anyway.
HORMATSAnd with all the money they have and the ability to bribe people and move weapons in and out, they takeover portions of countries so that the government simply can't govern in those portions of the country even if it wanted to. In many cases, the government simply don't have the firepower to counter these people. So it's already encroaching on the stability of certain parts of Africa.
HORMATSAnd there's probably more connection to terrorism, but we need to get more documentation in very specific ways to stop whatever interactions occur. But the probability is very high that there is.
REHMSo how much money does the state department have to, number one, raise awareness, number two, to try to counteract some of what's going on in this world?
HORMATSWell, the USAID has actually been very active in this. It's invested $17 million since 2005 to support what we call Wildlife Enforcement Networks in Southeast Asia. The USAID has also supported with the World Wildlife Funs a four-year multimillion dollar world effort to deal with marine wildlife and the poaching of marine wildlife. They are dealing with a group called TRAFFIC, which is a group that is trying to pull governments together and the private sector together to prevent the trafficking in wildlife.
HORMATSThere are a multitude of programs. So all in all, we're spending several million dollars, 10, 20, $30 million a year on this. And Secretary Clinton has just committed another $100,000 to strengthen interconnections between these Wildlife Enforcement Networks around the world. So we're spending a lot of money to address this. But we're also working with wonderful NGOs. World Wildlife Fund just had a major event. We're working with other wildlife groups throughout the region. As I said, in China, we met with a wide range of wildlife groups.
REHMAll right. Let's open the phones. We have many callers waiting, 800-433-8850. First to Atlantic Beach, Fl. Hi there, Laura, you're on the air.
LAURAThank you, Diane. This is the first time I've called, but I listen to you religiously ever since I retired and I am so impressed with the variety of speakers and topics that you have.
LAURAMy comment this morning has to do with sometime this year there was a notification, because I'm a member of the world wild group as well, that King Juan Carlos from Spain who supposedly is a member of that board, at some level, was shown with a group that he had gone into some kind of a hunting safari and was standing with the animal that he had shot. And people were very outraged. Any information on that from your speaker?
HORMATSI wasn't aware of that. No, I haven't heard that. But there a number of very high-level individuals are playing a constructive role in this area.
REHMBut that doesn't sound very constructive.
HORMATSNo, that does not. And I don't know anything about that. But I think it creates a very bad impression when senior people are seen to be doing that. Now whether -- there are some areas where there are private hunting lodges and fenced in areas where there is legal hunting of some of these animals. But whether it's legal or illegal, having your picture taken with a dead animal does not convey a very good impression.
REHMI should say.
HORMATSSo I will check into this, but I wasn't aware of this. Yes.
REHMI hope so. Thanks for calling, Laura. Let's go to Sabila who's here in Washington, D.C. Good morning to you. Sabila, are you there?
SABILAYes. Yes, I am. Thank you. I just wanted to thank Dr. Hormats and the State Department again for such strong leadership on this issue. And my question today is really more about the U.S. role. You mentioned earlier that the United States is the second largest consumer of wildlife products. And I remember a case in July of one of the biggest ivory busts here in New York City, in this country, and it was worth several million dollars, but the fine was only $55,000.
SABILAAnd I'm wondering what the U.S. government is then doing for elevating this crime as a serious crime and connecting it really with higher penalties and how U.S. agencies are working closer together on law enforcement to catch criminals in this country.
HORMATSVery good question. We're working with the Fish and Wildlife Service in this country, which has basic responsibility internally in this area to strengthen enforcement. We've had several meetings with them. We've met with them and with foreign ambassadors to discuss...
REHMAnd raise penalties as well?
HORMATSAnd we would like to -- their areas is really figuring out how to enforce the laws better and how to raise penalties and make it very harmful to the people who engage in this by virtue of very stiff penalties. And we're working with them. I don't know what they have done recently to stiffen the penalties and stiffen enforcement, but I know the strong commitment on the part of the Fish and Wildlife Service to do this. And the details, I think, I'll have to find more information on (unintelligible).
REHMIt sounds as though there ought to be jail time for that, Bob Hormats, as opposed to just financial penalties. If we are making such a big deal out of it, we need to look in our own backyard first. Robert Hormats, undersecretary of state for economic growth, energy and the environment. And you're listening to "The Diane Rehm Show." Let's go to Phoenix, Az. Hi there, David.
DAVIDGood morning. Good morning, Diane.
DAVIDYes. I truly respect your endeavors and the State Department and so forth and Hillary Clinton. Oh, yeah, God bless you all. One thing, you know, I've heard Chinese officials and Japanese officials, you know, the top political heads of state are buying elephant tusks behind the scenes through vendors that actually hide the ivory in the backroom. CBS has -- I've viewed this several times on CBS News.
DAVIDAnd by the way, I just want to mirror the call from Atlanta. Eric Trump, Donald Trump's son and the other son, actually I saw it on a newspaper, buried -- they shot an elephant, a tiger and a monkey.
HORMATSWell, unfortunately, there is a real problem here and that is a lot of people simply don't understand the seriousness of the situation at all. And there are others who may understand it, but...
HORMATSBut disregard the kinds of concerns that we're talking about here. And I think one of the things we need to do is, first of all, educate people. There is a strong educational campaign already. If you look at -- go into Reagan National Airport, you see a lot of posters on wildlife protection. But the second thing is particularly for younger people to use social networking, social contacts with one another to demonstrate to one another and to explain to one another that it's not cool to kill these animals or to have any animal products at all and to simply boycott them.
HORMATSAnd also to go to their parents and say, you think it's cool to have these or shoot these animals or have ivory ornaments, it's not. And one of the things I found in China is that among young people, there really is a strong movement now. And the Chinese are very active the Internet. There's blogging and there's something called Weebo, which is 500 million Chinese engaged in this. These are blogs that they exchange with one another.
HORMATSAnd we're trying to get in China, and we're going to try to get elsewhere around the world a far greater degree of awareness that animals are killed to produce these ornaments or these furs and get people to understand that they should just stop buying them because of the killing. And I think a lot of people need to be convinced to this, and kids are probably the best way of convincing one another and the parents.
REHMBut are kids going to convince the likes of people with great power or tons of money, the likes of which the king of Spain or Donald Trump and his son? I mean, you really do have a tough task ahead of you.
HORMATSIt's a huge task because the volume is so enormous. The amount of money that these poachers and sellers make is so enormous. And a lot of people have become used to this. They think it's cool to have these trophies. So we really have to make a major effort at all levels, from the top, down, heads of state, foreign ministers and businesses, and the average public.
REHMRobert Hormats, undersecretary for economic growth, energy and the environment at the U.S. Department of State. More of your calls, your email when we come back.
REHMAnd welcome back. If you've just joined us, Undersecretary of State Robert Hormats is with me. His responsibilities include economic growth, energy and the environment. And we're talking about the illegal trafficking in wildlife. Here's an email from Jason who says, "Are there any common products that people may be buying or using without knowing that they contain any of the animal parts discussed?"
HORMATSYes. I think primarily ivory where people buy ivory ornaments, people are not aware --
REHMNecklaces, jewelry, yeah.
HORMATS--necklaces, jewelry, things of that sort where they're not aware that they are by and large from animals that are slaughtered. Sometimes elephants die and that ivory is taken and sold so there is a certain amount of legal trade in ivory.
REHMBut that would be labeled as such, would it not?
HORMATSThat is -- the objective is to label it has such, but the problem even with that is that people get confused. They see some as legal and some as illegal. There have been in the past legal sales of ivory, or so called legal sales of ivory, but the fact is it's very confusing. And much of it, indeed most of it is illegal, but people tend to be confused between the two. So trying to ban all the trade in ivory is probably the best way of making a very clear line that when you buy ivory it is, by and large, from an elephant that has been slaughtered. So it avoids the confusion in people's minds.
REHMAll right. To Dallas, Texas, good morning, Lindsay.
LINDSAYHi, Diane. Thank you for having this program. I wanted to ask about the import and trafficking of exotic animals in the United States. I know that the -- this is governed by state law generally and that the laws are really a patchwork. There's no federal guidance. So I wondered if you could discuss that.
HORMATSWell, there is Fish and Wildlife Service that does have overall jurisdiction of this and they do crack down on these -- the trade in illegal or exotic pets and things of that sort. So they are making a major effort and we've had a lot of conversations with them. They do understand the serious situation. They're quite committed to addressing this. So there are very important federal laws.
HORMATSMoreover the federal government has agreements with other countries. We've signed agreement with other countries to participate in an effort to crack down on illegal wildlife trade. So there are a number of federal laws and there are federal agencies, Fish and Wildlife Service particularly.
REHMBut are you still seeing birds and monkey and the like coming in illegally?
HORMATSYes. Oh yes. Yes, they are. They -- the birds and monkeys and other exotic animals that people seem to regard as pets do come in. And skins of animals do come in. And these are illegal. They're not supposed to be brought in. We have treaty obligations not to let them come in but they do because they're smuggled in illegally, mostly in containers that say something else. And then they're sold surreptitiously. That's why it's so hard to get control over this.
REHMHere's an email from Sergio talking about Juarez, Mexico. He says, "My father and I went there to a mall. And as we parked and left our vehicle, a man pulled up in a large van next to us. He called out to ask if we'd like to buy something. My father and I turned to find him opening the sliding door asking us if we were interested in his merchandise. The man had over a dozen kennels all various sizes all filled with different wildlife, amongst which I could clearly see a panther who was in terrible health, monkeys, birds and many more I could not see. We immediately said no, turned away, called authorities. We never found out what happened."
HORMATSI can't say I'm totally surprised. Angry, yes. Surprised, no, because we know there is illegal shipment of wildlife into the United States of endangered species. So this goes on over our borders. It goes on through shipping. It goes on through airfreight. And one of the things that we need to do and one of the things that we're committed to doing is to work with the shipping companies and the airfreight companies and the financial services companies to prevent the kinds of procedures that enable these things to occur. Stop the shipments and stop the financing.
HORMATSAnd we can do this, but as you pointed out and as your callers have pointed out, this is a huge problem and we've known about it. And there have been people in the State Department who have been working on this for quite some time. But the magnitude of it has just increased dramatically as the price of these goods has gone up and the price of the tiger furs and all these other things, and the elephant tusks have gone up. Then it makes it more lucrative and they have more money to pay off authorities. So it's a much bigger problem now than it was even five years ago just because the money's so big now.
REHMLet's go to Seven Hills, Ohio. Lucy, you're on the air.
LUCYThanks. Good morning, Diane. The reason...
LUCY..the moral progress of a nation can be judged by the way it treats it's animals. And so what I'd like to say is I think we need to start here. In our State of Ohio last year, as the country well knows, we had a horrible incident of a menagerie of exotic cats and other wild animals that were let loose and officials came in and killed because these animals were illegal exotics or legal exotics, I'm not sure.
REHMYes, I remember that.
LUCYAnd Governor Kasich, Ohio governor, the first month in office got rid of a bill that was signed by Governor Strickland, the previous governor in Ohio to ban exotic animals. And so what I want to ask your guest is this. If hunters, lobbyists, the NRA, the Pitman Robertson Act and all these things that are going on here are not being looked at with -- for instance, the Fish and Wildlife Service and wildlife services and our country kills millions of animals every year that are interfering with crops -- so if we're not looking at that and we're not looking at what we're doing to our wildlife, how can we expect the exotic wildlife trade to change?
LUCYAnd so, again, the moral progress of a nation can be judged by the way it treats its animals. And we're not doing very well here.
HORMATSWell, I certainly agree that we need to make sure that we adhere to our laws and have moral principles in the way we address problems in this country. But...
REHMBut if the governor of Ohio has repealed a ban on exotic animals, which law prevails?
HORMATSWell, I'm not aware -- I wasn't aware of the incident in Ohio, but I will certainly look into that. But I do think your caller makes a very important point and that is we have to demonstrate internally that we are taking this whole question of protection of wildlife and exotic species seriously. So that -- the better we're able to do that here the more credibility we will have elsewhere.
REHMAll right. To...
HORMATSThat's important, but it's certainly true that we're much more attuned to this, generally, in terms of protection of wildlife than many other countries. But we need to do more here...
HORMATS...to strengthen our credibility abroad.
REHMLet's go to Phoenix, Ariz. Hi there, Todd.
TODDHello. How are you today?
TODDYou know, I was just wondering if you could address the issue of the United States customs. It seems as though all of these products need to go through customs and all of the Ports of Entry. Why are we not stopping the trades of these particular items, you know, through the use of either entering or exiting through customs?
HORMATSCustoms is trying to do this. I mean, I've had conversations, my colleagues have had conversations with the customs people, with the import inspectors. They really are trying to do this. The problem is -- first of all, the problem is enormous in size. And second, many of these things are mislabeled so you get boxes that are labeled something, um, but...
REHMAnd how many inspectors are there?
HORMATSAnd there are only a limited number of inspectors. But the point is well taken that we need to do a better job of inspecting these shipments that come in that contain illegally trafficked wildlife. They come in by shipments of -- by ship and by air and we need to do two things. We need to strengthen our own protection at the border but we really need, and the most effective way is to work with the airlines and the cargo shippers to address this issue.
HORMATSBut we also need to work with the countries that supply these where they come from. They're the victims along with their animals because in many cases they just don't have the ability to control the goods that go out of the country. So they need strong enforcement as well and we're providing technical assistance to help them do that.
REHMTell me about the cooperation between the U.S. and New Zealand to push for marine protection in the Ross Sea.
HORMATSYes. The United States had been working with several nations to develop a proposal for a marine protected area called an MPA in Antarctic's Ross Sea. And that is to address issues of the ecosystem protection, scientific research, fishing objectives. Our proposal covers an area in fact even larger than the whole of Alaska. And this is one of the last great ocean wilderness areas of the earth. And it supports a unique group of species such as emperor penguins, Wendell seals, killer whales. And we're working very hard to have a protected area on this because it's a unique region. it's really a major effort by the United States and New Zealand.
HORMATSUnfortunately, we haven't gotten as much support from some other countries as we should and it's a tragedy, but we're working on this. There was a meeting just a couple of weeks ago where we're trying to make an effort to get agreement on this. And we're trying to get other countries lined up on this. It is a huge problem and we're certainly making this a very high priority.
REHMAll right. To Stan, Va. Good morning, Paul.
PAULYes, hello. Diane Rehm, you are a national treasure.
PAULWonderful program as always. I'm really amazed that Hillary Clinton is taking this on on top of everything else that's already on her plate. And it's great that she is doing so. It seems to me that these people, these -- well, they're individuals, they're not much in the way of people -- who are committing these acts, they ought to be fined in excess of whatever they have would sell for in the market and maybe ten times. You know, because otherwise, the way they look at it, it's like it's just the cost of doing business.
HORMATSYes. Well, first of all the fines certainly should be raised dramatically to rates that really impose a very high penalty. Second, prison sentences. I think there is a very strong set of arguments for having long prison sentences. And very recently, as you may have seen, the government of South Africa imprisoned people who were engaged in illegal wildlife trade. And one person got a very long 40-year prison sentence. So one needs to really take very tough action both with respect to the size of the fines if they're monetary fines and prison sentences where that is the part of the legal process of the country.
REHMAnd you're listening to "The Diane Rehm Show." And finally an email from Nash, "Please better connect wildlife trafficking in Africa to U.S. national security. Why would or should they intelligence community care about this issue?"
HORMATSVery good question. We should care about it because our national security is tied up with this in many ways. We have a national security interest in preventing the inflow of illegal drugs and the flow of illegal drugs that undermines countries around the world. We have an interest in preventing the illegal flow of arms into our country and many other vulnerable countries around the world. We certainly have an interest in preventing anything that supports terrorists in our country and around the world.
REHMAnd is there any indication that the flow of these animals or animal parts is funding terrorism?
HORMATSWe're looking into the details. Wes know it's funding terrorism in specific countries because it's funding these militias that go around killing animals and killing wildlife service people. So it's funding terrorism in that respect in particular parts of Africa where the government loses control and these militias in effect take over. And we see that. Whether it's funding the broader kind of terrorism that we're used to, we don't know but they move money around, they move products around. And we're looking into this very carefully.
HORMATSBut a lot of these groups work together to move products illegally and to move money illegally. But we are now -- the secretary's asked the intelligence community to look into this. We hope to have more information soon. But there's so much money involved that it could be going into a lot of groups that threaten national security of ourselves and our friends and allies in Africa and other parts of the world.
REHMAnd Emily in St. Petersburg, Fla. has a final quick question, please.
EMILYHi. I just wanted to say, first of all, there is an excellent documentary called "Elephant in the Living Room" that talks about the exotic pet trade that might -- some people might be interested in watching. And also I just want to say that I love that Secretary Clinton's taking the laws into account and really looking at them now. But also I think that people in the nation could think my dollar is a vote towards also -- like going more towards fake fur and not using animal products. Just like you were saying with like the Chinese Weebo website and stuff.
EMILYWe have to all get together and do that because I think my generation doesn't want those products as much. I would rather buy, like, fake fur -- there was a beautiful Michael Kors bag that my sister refused to just buy, even though it's in her industry and, you know, she works in luxury goods. And she -- in New York City and she just won't buy it because there was this gorgeous foxtail on the end of it. And it was just disturbing to us that it was a body piece of an arctic fox that's just, you know, if it was fake, we would've bought it in two seconds. But...
HORMATSWell, that's a great message to end on and that is animals die to produce these products that people use for fashion or ornaments or whatever they use them for, or exotic pets. And we should just stop it. If everyone stopped buying it and we convinced the Chinese and the Vietnamese to do likewise -- it's a tough task but we've got to do it through education and a collective effort.
REHMRobert Hormats, Undersecretary for economic growth, energy and the environment at the U.S. Department of State. I wish you all the best.
HORMATSThank you very much, Diane. Good to be with you.
REHMThank you. And thank you all for listening all. I'm Diane Rehm.
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