216 since 1978.
Key U.S. government director references government sequestration for the inability to beef up staff to combat illegal wildlife trade. The call for increased private investment rings louder if government agencies can’t do the task required. Where’s the funding for this in Obama’s executive order to combat illegal wildlife trade? Interestingly, sequestration isn’t really the long-term issue this agency has had as Daniel Ashe, director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service aptly discloses.
“The U.S. is a leader in the fight against wildlife crime. We use our wildlife laws to keep this country from becoming a significant transit point and destination for such trafficked wildlife items as elephant ivory, rhino horn…..But the federal budget sequestration is limiting our law-enforcement capability at the very time we need it most.
Our Office of Law Enforcement already has 63 vacant positions for special agents—the men and women on the front lines of preventing wildlife crime. With sequestration, FWS had to cancel plans to hire a class of 24 officers to begin filling these jobs. As a result, we will be able to carry out fewer investigations of wildlife trafficking, and we may have to postpone plans to station agents overseas in countries that are either suppliers of or markets for elephant ivory, rhino horn and other contraband.
We currently have 216 special agents—about the same level as in 1978, although the job is so much harder. The number of protected species has increased more than 60 percent, and wildlife trafficking today involves well-organized criminal syndicates taking advantage of the latest technologies to operate on a global basis. We also have vacancies in our wildlife inspector ranks, which we will not be able to fill. These are the folks on the ground at ports of entry, checking imports and exports and intercepting illegal trafficking.”
Source: Scientific American, September 6, 2013 http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=why-elephant-poachers-lov&page=2