U.S. Rep. Vern Buchanan, R-Fla., scored a win this week as his “Rescuing Animals With Rewards Act (RAWR) Act” which, he insisted, “allows the State Department to offer rewards for information leading to the arrest or conviction of wildlife traffickers around the globe” cleared the U.S. House Foreign Affairs Committee.
“Wildlife trafficking is a grave and persistent threat to endangered animals across the world,” Buchanan said on Tuesday. “The RAWR Act would provide another tool to crack down on the billions of dollars generated by this illegal industry. I am optimistic the full House will soon take up this important measure.”
The congressman’s office noted his proposal “would explicitly add wildlife trafficking to the list of criminal activities the State Department can target with financial rewards for whistleblowers” and explained the bill.
“Endangered animals are subjected to some of the most horrifying acts of abject cruelty due to wildlife trafficking. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has stated that ‘thousands of wildlife species’ are threatened by trafficking. Elephants, rhinos, giraffes, lions and other animals are targeted by poachers across the globe. In the past few years some of the gains of conservation of rhinos have been halted due to a surge in poaching, as the rhino horn is used in traditional medicine. Hundreds of lions are killed and mutilated for their claws and teeth each year. According to one report by National Geographic in 2018 , four young lions were found with their faces and paws hacked off,” the congressman’s office noted. “Crimes related to illicit wildlife trafficking generates billions of dollars every year, much of which is funneled to terrorist groups. It is estimated that a kilogram of raw ivory can fetch as much as $2,100, while a kilogram of rhino horn is worth $65,000.”
Buchanan urged Congress to move quickly on his proposal even though there is no version of it yet in the U.S. Senate.
“It is critical that we get this bill to the president’s desk as soon as possible,” Buchanan said. “We need to incentivize whistleblowing that will protect global wildlife and deny terrorist groups funding derived from this nefarious industry.”
The proposal has the support of the Humane Society Legislative Fund, the International Fund for Animal Welfare, Animal Wellness Action and other groups.
In recent years, Buchanan has been one of the leaders on animal protection matters on Capitol Hill. He currently is a cochair of the Animal Protection Caucus.
Kevin Derby can be reached at Kevin.Derby@floridadaily.com.