Washington, DC - Yesterday, the Department of State hosted the seventh meeting of the Task Force on Wildlife Trafficking. The Task Force is co-chaired by Department of State Under Secretary of State for Economic Growth, Energy, and the Environment Catherine Novelli, the Department of the Interior Director of the Fish and Wildlife Service Dan Ashe, and the Department of Justice Assistant Attorney General for the Environment and Natural Resources Division John Cruden, and brings together 17 government agencies for a whole-of-government approach to fighting wildlife trafficking.

In 2016, the U.S. government made significant progress both internationally and domestically in our efforts to protect our planet’s precious wildlife.

In July, the United States implemented a near-total domestic ban on the trade in African elephant ivory. Building on that effort, through the U.S.-China Strategic and Economic Dialogue process, we secured a commitment from China to announce by the end of this year a timeline for the closure of its domestic market for African elephant ivory.

With U.S. leadership at the 2016 World Conservation Congress and the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) COP 17, the international community called on all governments to close their domestic markets for African elephant ivory and to protect 120 additional animal species.

In September, the United States held its first burn of illegal rhino horn. This followed successful elephant ivory crushes in 2015 and 2013. More than 20 countries worldwide have joined us in publically destroying ivory, rhino horn, and/or other illegal wildlife products to send a message to traffickers and their customers that we will not tolerate this illegal trade.

In October, the State Department held the first Zoohackathon at zoos and conservation centers across the globe, seeking new applications and tools to combat wildlife trafficking. At the Task Force meeting, the Department of State announced the global winner, the WildTrack application, which came from the Zoohackathon in San Diego.

The Task Force also welcomed the bipartisan Eliminate, Neutralize, and Disrupt—or E.N.D.—Wildlife Trafficking Act, which the U.S. Congress passed by consensus, and President Obama signed in October. This act gives the United States and partner countries additional tools to combat today’s unprecedented levels of poaching and wildlife trafficking.

The Task Force looks forward to continuing its work in 2017 and to further worldwide developments to end wildlife trafficking.