For two years, former Atherton, Calif. Mayor, Charles Marsala, has been advocating that Congress should increase the penalties for wildlife trafficking from the current levels as prescribed by the Lacey Act of 1900 to more severe financial penalties under the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) Act.

Marsala explains that elephant ivory, rhino horn, big cat parts, and Alaskan walrus tusks have become so valuable they now create a currency for terrorist groups, such as ISIS, Boko Haram, The Lord’s Resistance, and Al-Shabaab. U.S. Fish & Wildlife estimate the annual revenue for illegal wildlife trafficking reaches multi-billion dollars. Juan Zarate, a former deputy national security advisor for combating #Terrorism in the George W. Bush administration, recently spoke on a panel that stated the number could be $20 billion per year.

The U.S. is a major market and broker for illegal ivory. In the last two years, Fish & Wildlife crushed seven tons of confiscated illegal ivory. Marsala explains the current Lacey Act penalties are insignificantly small, equating to no more than hunting violation fines, versus the $500,000 value of the elephant ivory being smuggled into the U.S. The latest numbers show that over a three year period approximately 100,000 elephants were poached for their ivory, putting the remaining 500,000 elephants at risk for extinction in less than 20 years.

 

Marsala sent wildlife trafficking bill to Congress in 2014

Marsala drafted a bill to make wildlife trafficking a RICO financial crime and sent it to Congress in November 2014 with over 2,000 signatures. Two months later, Senators Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) and Lindsey Graham (R-SC) co-sponsored S.27 - Wildlife Trafficking Enforcement Act of 2015. The Act was endorsed by two Democratic and two Republican senators and sent to committee for review. Yet 18 months later, no action has been taken, nor has the Act even been put on the committee's agenda.

In May of 2015, Representative Ed Royce (R-CA) introduced H.R. 2494, Eliminate, Neutralize, and Disrupt Wildlife Trafficking Act of 2016. By November, the House bill had been endorsed by 45 Republicans and 58 Democrats. A voice vote was called and H.R. 2494 passed. However, neither of the two Louisiana Congressman running for Senate endorsed H.R. 2494. Marsala notes that the elephant is the mascot of the Republican Party, and he is surprised that a greater effort has not been taken to save the species while also disrupting a major revenue source of terrorist groups.

As Senator, Marsala intends to either move a new bill related to H.R. 2494 or push S.27 through the Senate, where it has been stalled for 18 months.

Marsala inspired by Teddy Roosevelt

Marsala has hosted events for the group Republicans for Environmental Protection, and is well-versed regarding Teddy Roosevelt. During his presidency, Roosevelt made two trips to Louisiana. The first was in 1907 where he visited Tullulah and Stamboul, which has since been renamed Roosevelt. In 1904, Roosevelt made Louisiana's Breton Islands and Chandeleur Islands a national wildlife refuge, taking this action to stop the hunting of several near-extinct bird species. He also made a trip to New Orleans in 1915 to visit the islands to see the results of the conservation efforts.

Marsala equates Roosevelt’s National Wildlife Refuge Program with H.R. 2494 and S.27. He notes, “Now that Alaskan walruses have been targeted by terrorists for ivory, there should be a greater sense of urgency in Congress to save the numerous species and get these bills passed. Congress wants to stop ISIS and the ‘low hanging fruit’ is to cut off ivory-funded terrorism. This a bipartisan issue that should have been passed years ago.”   

Marsala, founder of AWE News, is a member of the Global March for Elephants and Rhinos, which will host worldwide marches in September to bring attention to the United Nation's Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES). #Africa #EndangeredSpecies