Ambassador Van Vranken’s Remarks: Wildlife Trafficking Cybercrime Training Course Hosted by INL & USFWS for Department of Wildlife & Nat

August 11, 2023

It is with great pleasure that I congratulate the Department of Wildlife and National Parks graduates of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Wildlife Trafficking Cybercrime course, co-hosted by the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement.

I believe everyone here today—the DWNP course participants and our colleagues from U.S. Embassy Gaborone, the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement, the International Law Enforcement Academy, and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service—are here with a shared conviction and purpose: to reduce wildlife crimes and conserve Botswana’s rich biodiversity and ecosystems. In short, you’re here because you care.

I recently had the opportunity to get out to the Okavango Delta with my family. The wild places of Botswana have an infectious way of getting under your skin. And when there’s skin in the game, conservation is no longer just in-theory, but it brings out a deep sense of being invested in working together to conserve Botswana’s unparalleled wildlife and rich landscapes.

Botswana’s wildlife has global significance—home to Africa’s biggest predators and prey, as well as critically endangered species and endangered ecosystems. This wildlife still exists because Botswana’s record on deterring poaching and wildlife trafficking has historically been one of the strongest on the African continent. The U.S. Government places an importance on supporting African partners—such as Department of Wildlife and National Parks—to lead in protecting the environment and fighting nature crime. These efforts are
critical to conserving Botswana’s wildlife but also are vital for Botswana’s long-term economic health.

The United States is a long-standing leader in combating wildlife trafficking globally, committing upwards of $100 million annually to combat wildlife trafficking around the world. We continue to enjoy strong bipartisan support from Congress for combatting wildlife trafficking across multiple administrations, including the reauthorization of the 2016 Eliminate, Neutralize, and Disrupt (END) Wildlife Trafficking Act that enhances our ability to act against wildlife trafficking globally. The funding from U.S. State Department’s Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement, combined with the expertise of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, is proof that we use a whole-of-government approach with our U.S. Wildlife Trafficking Task Force—leveraging the expertise and programs of 17 federal agencies.

It is with great pride that Botswana has been the recipient this week of some of the best expertise the U.S. government has to offer on combatting wildlife crime via cybercrime investigation. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is the only agency in the federal government whose primary responsibility is the management of important natural resources, dedicated to the conservation, protection, and enhancement of fish, wildlife and plants, and their habitats.

To my colleagues at U.S.Fish and Wildlife Service, thank you for your continuous dedication and service. Your work is a vital part of our international efforts to improve cross-border law enforcement cooperation, strengthen wildlife trafficking legislation, enhance wildlife management, and provide critical training to park rangers, police, customs officials, prosecutors, judges, and parliamentarians. As we like to say, wildlife knows no boundaries. We are stronger working together across boundaries to achieve critical conservation goals.

To our DWNP graduates: congratulations on a job well done this week! I have no doubt you’re here because you are deeply invested in protecting Botswana’s wildlife, and now you have some extra tools in your tool belt to continue to make a difference every day.