Johannesburg – South Africa and the United States have joined forces in an bid to encourage worldwide collaboration to combat the world’s growing illegal trade in wildlife that is driving several species to extinction.

Sally Jewell, US Secretary of the Interior and co-chair of President Obama’s Task Force on Wildlife Trafficking visited the country as the last stop of her official visit to Africa this week, the US Department of the Interior confirmed on Friday.

She met with senior government officials to discuss ways the two countries can work together to ensure that endangered creatures will be here for future generations, driving tourism revenue and supporting conservation.

“We know that if we are going to address this scourge, it will require international cooperation at all levels of government,” said Secretary Jewell.

“The United States is committed to deepening our partnership with African countries to address this growing, international challenge.”

Secretary Jewell and US Embassy Pretoria Charge d’ Affaires Catherin Hill-Herdon met with Minister of Science and Technology Naledi Pandor, Environmental Affairs Minister Edna Molewa, Chinese Ambassador to South Africa Xian Xuejun and CEO of South African National Parks (SANParks) Fundisile Mketeni.

The US Department of the Interior said Secretary Jewell also held a roundtable discussion on wildlife trafficking with non-governmental organisations and conservation leaders before visiting the Kruger National Park. Here she visited a recent wildlife crime scene with Minister Molewa to better understand the nature of these crimes and the potential for collaboration to reduce poaching.

South Africa is home to hundreds of endangered species including the African elephant, African lion, cheetah and both the black and white rhinoceros.

More than 90% of the world’s 20 000 white rhino and 40% of the 5 000 black rhino can be found here.

The relationship between the US and South Africa has supported conservation activities by providing technical assistance with projects such as tackling poaching, trafficking prevention and personnel exchange involving the US Fish & Wildlife Service among others for more than 20 years.

Close to R3 million was invested by the US Fish & Wildlife Service for conservation activities between 1995 and 2015, which helped leverage $18.5 million in outside funding.

In November, Jewell also participated in bilateral meetings with senior officials from Gabon, Kenya and Namibia to discuss their commitment to addressing climate change, the conservation of protected areas as well as fighting wildlife trafficking.

The international outreach is part of President Obama’s National Strategy to Combat Wildlife trafficking.

In July 2015, Obama announced new proposed regulations to prohibit most interstate commerce in African elephant ivory and further restrict commercial exports. This will result in a near total ban on the domestic commercial trade of ivory in States.