The U.S. State Department is offering its first reward of up to $1 million for information leading to the dismantling of a Laos-based transnational criminal organization that specializes in trading ivory .
In a press statement released Wednesday evening, Secretary of State John Kerry announced the reward for information on the Xaysavang Network, a criminal organization with affiliates in South Africa, Mozambique, and countries across Southeast Asia, including China.
According to the statement, “The Xaysavang Network facilitates the killing of endangered elephants, rhinos, and other species for products such as ivory.” The statement noted that the $8-10 billion profits from the illegal ivory trade are used to fund the illicit trafficking of drugs, arms, and humans. The reward will be the first in a new Transnational Organized Crime Rewards Program.
The State Department’s move follows a November 5 decision by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to destroy its six ton stockpile of ivory it has seized and stockpiled since the 1980s. By destroying the stockpile, the agency sought to send a message to poachers and traffickers that illegally obtained ivory has no value.
Poaching has been on President Obama’s agenda since July, when he announced an anti-poaching task force during his trip to Africa. An Enough Project report from June showed the destabilizing effects of the ivory trade, noting that Joseph Kony’s Lord’s Resistance Army has turned to hunting elephants to fund its violent operations.
Christopher Butterfield is an intern for ThinkProgress.