US Department of StateNEWS (Washington, D.C.) — The U.S. Presidential Task Force on Wildlife Trafficking released its first annual Progress Assessment today, on “World Wildlife Day.” The report details accomplishments of the Task Force in implementing the U.S. National Strategy for Combating Wildlife Trafficking in its first year, as well as future efforts in the fight against this pernicious trade.

Last year was a turning point in the global effort to counter wildlife trafficking. Task Force agencies vigorously carried out the three main objectives of the National Strategy: strengthening enforcement, reducing demand, and expanding international cooperation. One multi-year initiative known as “Operation Crash” has led to prosecutions against more than 30 individuals and businesses in U.S. courts, leading to prison terms as long as 70 months and forfeitures as high as $4.5 million. Task Force agencies last year trained more than 2,000 enforcement officials around the globe.

In countering demand, Task Force campaigns in 2015 reached tens of millions of people in the United States and major markets throughout Asia to dissuade consumers from buying illegal wildlife or wildlife products. A major accomplishment in international cooperation was the September commitment by President Obama and Chinese President Xi Jinping to take timely and significant steps to halt the domestic commercial trade of ivory.

President Obama created the Task Force in 2013, bringing together 17 federal departments and offices in a whole-of-government approach to halt illegal activities that threaten the survival of elephants, rhinos, and other iconic species. The Task Force is co-chaired by the Secretaries of State and the Interior and the Attorney General, and it is charged with implementing the National Strategy issued by President Obama in 2014 and detailed in an Implementation Plan in 2015.

For a copy of the 2015 Progress Assessment, click here (PDF):