The U.S. House Monday passed Florida Congressman Vern Buchanan’s "Rescuing Animals With Rewards Act" (RAWR Act), which allows the State Department to offer rewards for information leading to the arrest or conviction of wildlife traffickers around the globe.
“Wildlife trafficking is a nefarious and persistent threat to endangered animals across the world,” Buchanan said in an afternoon press statement. “The RAWR Act provides another tool to crack down on the billions of dollars generated by this illegal activity. It is now up to the Senate to approve this important measure.”
Buchanan’s legislation would explicitly add wildlife trafficking to the list of criminal activities the State Department can target with financial rewards for whistleblowers.
The RAWR Act is the Republican's second major animal protection measure to pass the U.S. House in recent weeks. Last month the House passed his amendment to protect endangered African lions and elephants by banning the importation of their dead carcasses into the United States to be mounted as trophies.
Crimes related to illicit wildlife trafficking generate 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.
“It is imperative that we get this bill to the president’s desk as soon as possible,” Buchanan continued. “Whistleblowing protects global wildlife and denies terrorist groups funding derived from this illicit industry. We should be doing all we can to encourage bringing these criminals to justice.”
Terrorist organizations, including Boko Haram, use poaching as a main funding source to finance their other activities. Boko Haram alone has killed 25,000 elephants in a 10-year period, Buchanan noted.
On Monday evening, Buchanan joined a press conference to champion the Preventing Animal Cruelty and Torture (PACT) Act, which makes it easier to prosecute those involved in the gruesome killing of animals. The bill, which is supported by more than 170 bipartisan members of Congress, has received nationwide coverage from dozens of media outlets, reaching more than a million Americans.
Buchanan, co-chair of the Animal Protection Caucus, received an "A" rating from the Humane Society of the United States for his leadership and votes in 2018. He is also a past recipient of the Humane Society’s “Legislator of the Year” award. He recently opposed the Interior Department’s announcement that it would move to delist the gray wolf from Endangered Species protection. His strong record of defending animals also includes opposing weaker protections for the Florida manatee and panther, as well as urging the U.S. Department of Agriculture to restore a database of animal cruelty information that the department removed suddenly and without notice.