U.S. Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell, co-chair of President Obama’s Task Force on Wildlife Trafficking, concluded an official visit to Gabon on January 25th, where she met with senior government officials to discuss ways the United States and the African countries can work together to combat the world’s growing illegal wildlife trade, which is having a devastating impact on species such as elephants and great apes, pushing them into further decline and even near extinction.
“Reversing the scourge of wildlife trafficking requires bold action and commitment from the United States and international partners, and it was encouraging to see how our partnerships on the ground in Gabon are helping the country take swift, effective steps to shut down this trade that threatens to wipe out species around the globe,” Secretary Jewell said.
Marking her first official visit to the continent of Africa, Jewell and U.S. Ambassador to the Gabonese Republic and the Democratic Republic of Sao Tome and Principe Cynthia H. Akuetteh met with Gabon’s President Ali Bongo Ondimba; Minister of Environmental Protection and Natural Resources, the Forest and the Sea Flore Josephine-Mistoul; Minister of Sustainable Development, Economy and Investment Promotion Prospects Regis Immongault; and Director of the National Agency for National Parks Dr. Lee White. Secretary Jewell will next travel to Kenya and South Africa to continue these conversations.
Gabon is refuge to more than 50 percent of Africa’s remaining forest elephants, despite making up only 13 percent of the elephant’s historic range in Central Africa.
President Obama in July 2015 announced proposed regulations to prohibit most interstate commerce in African elephant ivory and further restrict commercial exports, which will result in a near total ban on the domestic commercial trade of African elephant ivory in the United States.
In addition to wildlife trafficking, Secretary Jewell also discussed Gabon’s interest in renewing its candidacy for the Extractive Industry Transparency Initiative (EITI) and reinforced the importance of transparency across all sectors of the economy and society.
“Gabon has shown strong leadership in the region, and we support its progressive and ambitious vision for wildlife conservation and ecotourism while sustainably managing its natural resources,” said Secretary Jewell.“Leaders of both nations recognize the need to act now if we are to pass on a world to our children and grandchildren where marine and terrestrial ecosystems are intact and magnificent species still roam in the wild and are not just seen in history books.”