Senate OKs Merkley wildlife trafficking rewards bill

Senate OKs Merkley wildlife trafficking rewards bill

WASHINGTON - Sens. Jeff Merkley (D-OR) and Susan Collins (R-ME) announced Wednesday the Senate passage of the Rescuing Animals With Rewards (RAWR) Act, legislation to help save endangered animals by combating wildlife trafficking and poaching. It would authorize the State Department to offer financial rewards for information that leads to the disruption of wildlife trafficking networks.

"When wildlife traffickers, poachers, and profiteers kill magnificent animals like elephants, giraffes, and rhinos, they risk causing irreparable destruction to critical ecosystems and rob the world of a piece of our humanity and shared history on this planet," Merkley said. "This week, the Senate took an important step toward righting this wrong, and now I'm urging my colleagues in the U.S. House of Representatives to pass this bill without delay."

"Wildlife trafficking is a transnational crime that requires a coordinated and sustained global effort to effectively combat it," said Collins. "The bipartisan RAWR Act will allow the State Department to offer rewards for information regarding wildlife traffickers, building upon ongoing efforts to deter this illegal activity that harms animals and threatens conservation efforts."

Wildlife trafficking is the second-greatest threat to the survival of species around the globe. The billion-dollar wildlife trade leads to the overexploitation of species to the point of extinctions—while also providing an avenue for criminal enterprises and terrorist organizations to make massive profits in a difficult-to-track market. The RAWR Act would enable the State Department to do more to tackle this insidious and growing threat to both animal species and security around the world.

"At a time of unprecedented threats to endangered species worldwide, we need every tool available to fight the illegal wildlife trade," said Dr. Don Moore, Oregon Zoo director. "By helping international law enforcement track down and stop trafficking rings, the RAWR Act will protect not only wildlife, but entire ecosystems and rural livelihoods, including those based on ecotourism. The Oregon Zoo supports Senators Merkley and Collins in ramping up efforts to ensure the survival of our most imperiled species."

The RAWR Act is supported by a wide range of environmental and animal welfare groups, including the International Fund for Animal Welfare, National Whistleblower Center, Humane Society Legislative Fund, Humane Society International, NRDC, African Wildlife Foundation, the Environmental Investigation Agency, Wildlife Conservation Society, the Association of Zoos and Aquariums, World Wildlife Fund, the Animal Welfare Institute, and the Oregon Zoo.

This legislation is co-sponsored by Senators Chris Coons (D-DE), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Tammy Duckworth (D-IL), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ), Martha McSally (R-AZ), Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), Ben Cardin (D-MD), Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), Rick Scott (R-FL), Tom Udall (D-NM), Tom Carper (D-DE), Maria Cantwell (D-WA), Marco Rubio (R-FL), Catherine Cortez Masto (D-NV), Christopher Murphy (D-CT), Jacky Rosen (D-NV), Kamala Harris (D-CA), Bernard Sanders (I-VT), Mark Warner (D-VA), and Gary Peters (D-MI).

The next step for the bill is a vote in the U.S. House of Representatives before it can be signed into law by the President.