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Officials: Wildlife products may finance terrorism

By Verena Dobnik

NEW YORK (AP) - The U.S. government is stepping up its crackdown on the illegal trafficking of wild animal products across the nation's borders, saying some may be linked to terrorists, federal officials said Monday.

"Poaching in Africa is funding terrorist groups," U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman told a news conference at Kennedy International Airport.

He said such illegal trade is a threat to global security because it's driven by criminal elements, including terrorists using profits from items such as rhinoceros horns and elephant tusks to finance their activities.

On display in an airport cargo warehouse operated by the U.S. Customs and Border Protection was a collection of wildlife products seized at Kennedy - from ivory disguised to look like a wooden statue and the stuffed heads of a lion and leopard to handicrafts, artworks and musical instruments hiding animal parts.

The single priciest item was a rhino horn. It fetches $30,000 per pound - or about 30 percent more than its weight in gold.

Paul Chapelle, the agent in charge of New York for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, said one horn case resulted in 16 arrests, including that of a mobster from Ireland now serving 13 months behind bars.

A dead elephant is worth about $18,000 - mostly from the tusk. Also seized was a small rhino horn libation cup worth tens of thousands of dollars.

Kennedy handles the largest cargo volume of any U.S. airport, about $100 billion a year, said Patrick Foye, executive director of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, which runs the airport.

And the wildlife element plays an especially powerful role in national security, said Froman, the chief U.S. trade negotiator and adviser to President Barack Obama.

More than 20,000 elephants were killed last year along with about 1,000 rhinos, meeting a rising world demand resulting in declining populations across Africa, according to officials with the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora.

This treaty was signed by more than 170 countries to protect animals that end up as contraband including live pets, hunting trophies, fashion accessories, cultural artifacts and medicinal ingredients.

U.S. trade officials believe that groups benefiting from the poaching include the militant Lord's Resistance Army in Uganda and South Sudan, the Janjaweed comprised of Sudanese Arab tribes, and al-Shabab, a jihadist group based in Somalia.

In February, Obama approved a new strategy for fighting trafficking through enforcement, as well as partnerships with other countries, communities and private industry. For the first time, U.S. officials are asking trading partners to agree to conservation measures for wildlife and the environment in return for signing agreements.

Kennedy customs officials are reaching out to local businesses, plus auction houses like Christie's and Sotheby's and even Carnegie Hall to alert them to illegally traded valuables that may come their way.

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djeaninew1066 June 16 2014 at 9:02 PM

It shouldn't be acts of terrorism that get people to crackdown on these purveyors of animal parts. Most of the animals are endangered from too many humans and especially ones who deal in old world folk tales about getting their worthless wangs up. All poachers should be put to death on the spot. Anyone using the animal as Viagra shoud be neutered. I am sick of these cretins destroying the world for no really valid reasons.

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6 replies
Welcom Carl June 16 2014 at 10:31 PM

Shoot all poachers on sight.

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TKB June 16 2014 at 10:19 PM

Execute poachers!!!

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2 replies
jfrasca181 TKB June 17 2014 at 9:18 AM

And do it fast and swiftly

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onionson TKB June 17 2014 at 2:53 PM

Except my mom and her excellent work with eggs.

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Parris June 16 2014 at 8:52 PM

great... use anything and everything to stop unnecessary killings of animals.

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Larry June 16 2014 at 11:23 PM

What encourages terrorism is Obama's Muslim Appeasement Policy, combined with our open border. They're probably already in place. Sleepers.

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3 replies
John E Smith June 16 2014 at 11:43 PM

Burn it all, save nothing make it all worthless and yeah shoot poachers dead. or better yet take their weapons and cloths away and drop them in the wild around lions and see what chance they have.

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strahanval June 16 2014 at 9:51 PM

kill the poachers

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1 reply
Vimala Nowlis strahanval June 16 2014 at 11:48 PM

Don't forget the buyers. Without buyers, there won't be poachers or traffickers.

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5 replies
starey10 June 16 2014 at 10:40 PM

Catch and skin these poachers alive...total pieces of sh*t....I would love to put a lead slug in their heads, one-by-one....

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1 reply
Master Wong starey10 June 17 2014 at 9:14 AM

Move over I want a piece of that action...Glock at the ready!

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2 replies
starey10 Master Wong June 17 2014 at 9:24 AM

amen, brutha!

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onionson Master Wong June 17 2014 at 2:55 PM

You will need more than your silly little Glock Master Mouth.

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glasstiquedan June 17 2014 at 12:19 AM

All this poaching of animal products won't really stop in dirt poor African contries until they put a sizeable bounty on the heads of poachers. With how far the dollar goes over there the U.S. could easily fund such pro-active programs and likely save money over the law enforcement costs. If they did institute such a program just watch what would happen to the poachers!

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2 replies
hoper0715 glasstiquedan June 17 2014 at 1:48 AM

This is a great idea. Who will fund the bountys? Who will administer the funds? Who wil authenticate that the poachers submitted really are poachers, and not just someone's brother-in-law?

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Master Wong glasstiquedan June 17 2014 at 9:16 AM

Their heads on posts with a placard of their offence would help, it did for the brits on London bridge in days of old.

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1 reply
b_grossman1 Master Wong June 17 2014 at 2:13 PM

hey, what tribe are you from?

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Sandy June 17 2014 at 9:34 AM

What about the DEMAND side of this issue. Without demand there would be no need for a supply. YES!!! By all means, kill those heartless poachers, then search and do the same to those who create the demand for whatever their selfish, heartless, desire is in wanting the parts, skins, etc...FREAKS!!!!

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1 reply
ldismyshp Sandy June 17 2014 at 12:04 PM

I've frequent the Rosebowl Flea Market in Pasadena, California and have seen several vendors selling some of these items. One in particular has a whole lot of items of all kinds. I contacted the Rosebowl, but they did nothing to stop them.

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2 replies
Dalton ldismyshp June 17 2014 at 1:09 PM

Contact the police. SPCA. PETA (not that I particularly like PETA). Greenpeace. An organization that cares. Rosebowl committee probably doesn't care.

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onionson ldismyshp June 17 2014 at 2:57 PM

Your flea market stuff was probably fake.

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