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The atrocities committed against elephants, rhinos and tigers by the illegal wildlife trafficking networks have only increased in recent years. It is evident by the extinction of some species, like the western black rhino, that this black market for ivory and rhino horn is driving many species to the brink. People are standing up against illegal trafficking by bringing awareness through documentaries like “Gambling on Extinction” and now the U.S. government is taking the fight to the next level by offering a $1 million reward for information about specific wildlife-trafficking syndicates in Asia.

As of Nov. 1, it was reported that 790 rhinos have been poached in South Africa for the illegal wildlife trade so far this year! A startling statistic for just 10 full months of the year, a statistic which is also up from last year’s 668 rhinos kills in South Africa and sickeningly up from just 14 rhinos killed in 2005!

The State Department has offered the reward in order to get information pertaining to illegal activity that may be going on in the country of Laos, ore specifically on the syndicate supposedly being run by Laotian businessman Vixay Keosavang. Keosavang was implicated in a South African case of illegal wildlife trafficking last year when he received rhino horns in the mail. Keosavang claims he is being set up but he also doesn’t deny that he received the horns, just that he didn’t order them.

The reward will hopefully help to take down the syndicate, which is suspected to include some government officials as well as anyone who has participated in the hunting, killing, illegal transfer, ordering and even buying of  these endangered species.  Keosavang’s involvement is critical to stopping a large portion of the illegal trade, as it is suspected that his position connects the trade from Africa to Asia.

The $1 million reward is the result of President Obama’s executive order from this July to combat wildlife trafficking.  The order refers to the wildlife trade as an international crisis and calls on all departments to enhance domestic efforts to combat wildlife trafficking, assist foreign nations in combating trafficking, and assist in combating transnational organized crime. The order emphasizes how the survival of protected wildlife species is an important benefit to the social, economic and environmental welfare of all nations.

This reward will help combat transnational organized crime and wildlife trafficking at the same time. Some see a benefit to the reward approach. Steven Galster, the executive director of Freeland, a counter trafficking organization out of Bangkok, told the The New York Times in an email that, “in the world of wildlife trafficking and corruption, you gotta fight money with money.”

Let’s hope the State Department’s reward money will be enough to extract some valuable information out of the billion dollar black market in order to shut down the horrible illegal trade of ivory and rhino horns.

Image Source: Jocelyn Laurini/Flickr