The United States has targeted eight people from the Democratic Republic of Congo with visa restrictions for their suspected role in illegal wildlife or timber trafficking, the State Department said.
The central African nation is home to an abundance of wildlife, including pangolins, elephants, chimpanzees and gorillas, increasingly threatened by poaching and trafficking, often to Asia and the Middle East.
The State Department said the eight Congolese nationals had been sanctioned under Washington’s Immigration and Nationality Act, which means they could be barred entry to the United States.
The act “targets wildlife and timber traffickers who are believed to be, or have been, complicit in or involved in trafficking in wildlife, wildlife parts, or products”, it said in a statement Monday.
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“This visa restriction policy is designed to further disrupt the movements and business of transnational criminal organisations involved in wildlife and timber trafficking by making it harder for them to smuggle illegal wildlife and timber,” it added.
“Wildlife and timber traffickers are not welcome in the United States”.
Illegal poaching and trafficking have been exacerbated by the ongoing conflict in the Democratic Republic of Congo, with unrest often erupting in the mineral-rich east.
Nature reserves are frequently caught up in the fighting, putting vulnerable species at risk.