Terrorism or Trophies: #CeciltheLion

Cecil The Lion

Last Summer there was worldwide outrage when a dentist from Minnesota killed an iconic old lion that was loved by tourists in Zimbabwe’s Hwange National Park. When news of the lions death hit social media, the story spread like wildfire. The discovery that this lion had a name, and that his name was Cecil, would create a symbol for a movement. #CeciltheLion

On Monday, November 2, 2015, the U.S. House of Representatives passed bi-partisan H.R. 2494, the Global Anti-Poaching Act. Some animal activists and journalists were quick to affix the #CeciltheLion moniker to this significant anti-poaching measure claiming it as their own.

Misleading News Headlines This Week:
House passes anti-poaching bill inspired by Cecil the lionThe Hill
Cecil The Lion Fallout: US House Passes Anti-Poaching BillInternational Business Times
Importing lion trophies to the US could be outlawed as Cecil backlash continues ~ The Guardian

Congressman Ed Royce, Chairman House Committee on Foreign Affairs

Congressman Ed Royce, Chairman House Committee on Foreign Affairs

Sponsored by Chairman Ed Royce (R-CA) of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, the Global Anti-Poaching Act takes aim at wildlife trafficking by international crime syndicates and terrorist organizations. Introduced May 21st of this year, the bill predates the #CeciltheLion phenomenon, and is in reality a response to the National Strategy for Combating Wildlife Trafficking mandated by the Obama Administration in February 2014.

By contrast, H.R. 3526 and S. 1918the CECIL Act, are companion bills in the House and Senate that would prohibit trophy hunters from importing parts of any species, proposed or listed, as threatened or endangered under the Endangered Species Act of 1973. S. 1918 was introduced to the Senate in July, and H.R. 3526 to the House in September. They were clearly the result of the outcry over Cecils death.

Sloppy journalism has conflated the Global Anti-Poaching Act and the CECIL Act, and has caused most of the confusion over which bill does what, and for whom. That confusion has been exponentially magnified by social media, and is now viral on the internet. Meanwhile the CECIL Act has not emerged from committee in either chamber, and may never see the light of day.

Terrorism or Trophies: What’s the Difference?
The Global Anti-Poaching Act ~ Fights poachers and wildlife traffickers. No connection to the #CeciltheLion movement. Passed the House on Monday and is headed for the Senate.
The CECIL Act ~ Would stop the import of some hunting trophies into the United States. Closely associated with the #CeciltheLion movement. Stalled in committee.

The Global Anti-Poaching Act is a clear net positive for wildlife conservation world wide. Here are the main provisions in a nutshell:
1) It will expand wildlife networks and designate major wildlife trafficking countries.
2) It will withhold economic assistance to nations that are identified as weak on enforcement.
3) Seeks to professionalize wildlife rangers with training.
4) Allows the US to provide security assistance to other nations, while empowering domestic law enforcement to treat wildlife crime under federal racketeering (RICO) statutes.
5) Explicitly protects “lawful” hunting activities.

If H.R. 2494 passes the Senate, and is signed into law, the U.S. would step to the forefront of the global fight against wildlife trafficking. Designating who the bad players are (i.e. nations that are lenient on traffickers) gives the U.S. leverage to withhold future financial aid to offending countries. Further, the act gives domestic law enforcement carte blanche to treat wildlife traffickers as organized crime, much like the mafia or drug cartels. Holding these criminals accountable to federal racketeering law, combined with the threat of withholding much needed financial assistance to countries that tolerate trafficking, give the measure a powerful 1-2 punch in combatting poaching.

7 thoughts on “Terrorism or Trophies: #CeciltheLion

  1. First of all The United States already has ample laws to deal with poaching. Each state governs their own boarders. Many states have imposed harsh penalties for poaching that rise to felony levels. The LACEY act makes it a felony to transport poached game across state lines. The migratory bird treaty act prohibits the take of all migratory birds with the exception of some waterfowl species, and upland game birds. Mountain lions are not listed as threatened or endangered, yet they are unlawful to hunt or possess in the state of California.excess numbers of mountain lions are simply shot and destroyed by California state fish and wildlife officers. The idea that the United States can go into another sovereign country and impose our anti-poaching laws is ludicrous. Namibia has large numbers of cheetahs, and they are considered vermin in many areas, and are shot on sight by most farmers. They are routinely taken as legal hunting trophies. It is however unlawful to import them into the U.S. Additional legislation, is just another redundant “feel good law” that doesn’t really do anything that isn’t in place already.

    • We likely won’t be “going into sovereign countries.” I envision something more akin to the drug wars, where we provide advisor, ranger training and equipment to cooperative governments, and the threat of withholding aid money for countries that are weak on enforcement. RICO prosecutions here at home.

  2. Thanks for the detailed clarification between the two law proposals.

    The sort of law that was actually passed usually does not do much, until it ends up being used by the Fed bureaucracy for an unintended consequence of one sort of another. So, for example, 20 years from now Namibia has a government the Feds don’t like. They then can grab a 20-year old law and block trade/raise taxes/increase paperwork/eliminate cooperation with Namibia under the pretext of lax enforcement of cheetah protection.

    But in the meantime, if Namibia is pliable to whatever the bureaucrats want Namibia to do in whatever other policy respects (drug, terrorism, United Nations votes, i.e., whatever the unelected bureaucrats want) then they apply “discretion” and not enforce H.R. 2494.

    I think in general these are bad laws which only empower the bureaucracy.

  3. Andy, good clarification and synopsis of the two pieces of proposed legislation. I greatly fear that the Global Anti-Poaching Act is open to creating more problems than it solves. Your analogy with the drug wars was apt – the DEA’s interventions in Latin America have alienated 10s of thousands of farmers, killed thousands of people, and the end result is much more powerful and violent drug cartels and more and cheaper drugs on the streets of America. Now the U.S. wants to replicate that stirling record of failure in Africa replacing coca and hemp plants with wildlife. It sounds like a good excuse to employ a lot of contractors and U.S. military advisors and sell equipment though.

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