Conservationists say drive is first time wildlife trafficking has been discussed as a security rather than environmental threat.

America’s intelligence community was ordered to track poachers in Africa and Asia on Thursday as part of a new global drive against the illegal trade in elephant tusks and rhino horn.

Conservationists said it was the first time trafficking in wildlife, an underground trade in animal parts thought to generate $15bn a year for sophisticated smuggling networks, was elevated to the status of a security threat, rather than sidelined as primarily an environmental concern.

In a further sign of US commitment, Hillary Clinton said she and Barack Obama planned to talk about trafficking of endangered animals at the Association of South-East Asian Nations (Asean) summit in Phnom Penh next week.

Over the last few years, heavily armed trafficking gangs were overwhelming local authorities, terrorising village communities and increasingly posed a security threat, Clinton said.

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