US announces anti-poaching task force with South Africa

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South Africa and the United States are to set up a task force to “follow the money” behind the illegal wildlife trade, US Treasury chief Janet Yellen said on Wednesday.

Yellen made the announcement as she visited the wildlife-rich country, which has been hard-hit by the poaching of rhinos in particular.

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“To protect wildlife populations from further poaching and disrupt the associated illicit trade, we must ‘follow the money’ in the same way we do with other serious crimes,” Yellen said as she toured a game reserve north of the capital, Pretoria.

“This includes identifying and seizing the proceeds generated from the illegal wildlife trade.”

The task force would help improve information sharing between financial intelligence units to better support law enforcement agencies in the two countries, she said.

South Africa is home to nearly 80 percent of the world’s rhinoceroses.

But it is also a hotspot for rhino poaching, driven by demand from Asia, where horns are used in traditional medicine for their supposed therapeutic effect.

The world-famous Kruger National Park, a tourist magnet bordering Mozambique, has seen its rhino population decrease dramatically over the past decade and a half.

Abalones, pangolins and elephants have also been targeted by poachers.

Yellen arrived in South Africa, on the third stop of a continental tour aimed at forging a new “mutually beneficial” economic strategy toward Africa, where countries are being aggressively courted by Russia and China.

Her visit to Africa’s most industrialized economy was hot on the heels of a trip by Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov who was in Pretoria earlier this week.

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