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Washington, D.C. – Today the House passed the Rescuing Animals With Rewards (RAWR) Act (H.R. 6197), which uses the State Department’s existing global rewards program to target transnational wildlife traffickers. This legislation builds on the success of House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Ed Royce’s (R-CA) END Wildlife Trafficking Act of 2016, which was signed into law last Congress and makes it U.S. policy to take immediate action to stop wildlife trafficking.

On the House floor prior to the vote, Chairman Royce delivered the following remarks (as prepared for delivery):

“I rise in support of H.R. 6197, which targets transnational wildlife traffickers through the State Department’s existing global rewards program. These rewards will serve as a powerful tool to capture and convict wanted transnational criminals and terrorists who profit from the illegal wildlife trade.

Just last week, 87 elephant carcasses were discovered in Botswana’s Okavango Delta. These animals were shot by poachers, brutally stripped of their tusks and left to die. This is a very real and urgent issue.

Wildlife trafficking is estimated to generate over $10 billion a year in illegal profits for the increasingly sophisticated criminal syndicates – and terrorists – engaged in these bloody crimes. The illegal ivory trade is especially lucrative.

Mr. Speaker, for years now, I’ve been engaged in this fight to save some of our most endangered species. During a recent trip to Tanzania, my colleagues and I met with the law enforcement and park rangers on the front lines. They told us how they are outmanned and up against sophisticated criminal networks using helicopters and night-vision goggles.

I have also met with the local communities impacted by these crimes, who explain how wildlife trafficking jeopardizes local security, spreads disease, undermines the rule of law, fuels corruption and damages economic development.

Wildlife trafficking is a serious national security threat and combating it requires a global approach to identifying and apprehending the world’s worst offenders. And time is not on our side. Each day of inaction means more animals poached and more cash for criminals and terrorists.

That is why I sponsored the Eliminate, Neutralize, and Disrupt Wildlife Trafficking Act of 2016, which was signed into law last Congress and made it the policy of the United States to take immediate action to stop the illegal global trade in wildlife products and associated transnational organized crime.

And that is why I am proud to support H.R. 6197, which uses rewards to help federal law enforcement target international wildlife traffickers.

We know this approach can work.

In 2013, the State Department Rewards for Justice Program announced a $1 million reward for information on one of the most notorious transnational criminal organizations engaged in wildlife trafficking, the Vixay Keosavang network. This legislation will push the State Department to do more of this for wildlife crime to bring these dangerous criminals to justice.

I want to thank the bill’s author, Rep. Donovan, as well as his cosponsor, Rep. Castro, and Ranking Member Elliott Engel for their work on this important measure.

I urge my colleagues to join me in support of this measure, and I reserve the balance of my time.”

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