News / Africa

Global Governments Identify Africa’s Criminal Poachers

Seleka fighters warily eye a photographer at their base in Bambari, Central African Republic, on May 31, 2014.
Seleka fighters warily eye a photographer at their base in Bambari, Central African Republic, on May 31, 2014.
William Eagle
Fifty heads of state were invited to London by Prince Charles and British Foreign Minister Willam Hague last month to sign a declaration to stop the $20-billion illegal trade in wildlife.  Who are these armed bands of rebels-turned-poachers?
A deputy assistant secretary of state for international narcotics and law enforcement affairs, Brooke Darby, offers a few names.
“There are indeed some links between terrorist groups as well as criminal groups engaged in other types of criminal activities, whether its narcotics trafficking or money laundering, what have you, who are also involved in the wildlife trade," Darby says. "Al-Shabab, the Lord’s Resistance Army, the Janjaweed are among the entities we believe are involved in wildlife trafficking in some way or another.”
Janjaweed and Seleka forces
Rebel forces plunder herds easily within their reach, such as the rhinos and elephants that share their refuge in the jungles of Virunga National Park. But Sudan’s infamous Janjaweed travel great distances to slaughter elephants as far away as Mali, says Patrick Bergin, chief executive officer of the African Wildlife Federation and a member of the president’s Advisory Council on Wildlife Trafficking.
A short list of militants, terrorists that kill elephants
A short list of militants, terrorists that kill elephantsi
|| 0:00:00

“The situation I’m thinking about is in northern Cameroon in a park there," says Bergin.
"The Janjaweed people on horseback and with arms are going over state borders and moving into different countries and, you know, basically just sweeping into a park area and slaughtering you know 10s or 100s of elephants. Collecting the ivory and being gone again like the wind.”
The Janjaweed raids on Bouba Njida National Park have been going on for years, but with less killing in the past, Bergin said.
“This happened in the last six months,” Bergin said. “It’s not something that could happen very often because the elephant population couldn’t sustain it. The elephant population is not that large to begin with.”
John Calvelli of the Wildlife Conservation Society lists a relative newcomer to the wars of central Africa, the mostly Muslim Seleka force that toppled an elected government in the capital of Bangui and sparked a sectarian war that has claimed thousands of lives and displaced a large percentage of the nation’s population.
  • SELEKA   Conservation experts report evidence that non-state militias of Seleka forces recently killed at least 26 elephants in Central African Republic's Sangha Mbaere reserve. Armed fighters face a photographer at a Seleka base in Bambari on May 31, 2014.
  • BOKO HARAM   Nigerian military identified weapons taken from the Islamist militants in the country's northeast states in June, 2013. Experts see a possible spread of poaching-funded militia violence from groups like al-Shabab in the Horn of Africa to West Africa forces.
  • JANJAWEED   Mounted horsemen from Sudan's feared paramilitary are primary suspects in the slaughter of up to 100 elephants far to the west in Mali and in Cameroon's Bouba Njida national park. A Darfur Arab nomad photographed in 2007 in Bindisi, Sudan, is believed to be a member of the furtive Janjaweed.
  • M23   During two years of civil war, units of M23 rebels sought haven in Virunga National Park where officials say they fueled regional violence against civilians, hippos and game wardens. M23 fighters sat under guard (above) near Goma during a November 2013 negotiated settlement with the Democratc Republic of Congo.
  • INTERNATIONAL CRIME   Private entrepreneurs with global connections serve as models for miitias. Huge profits attracted South African game farmer Dawie Groenewald, and his wife, Sariette, who are among a dozen suspects in South African custody for poaching $6.8 million in rhino horns destined for global markets. 

Cut off poaching, cut off terror
“We’ve been working in the Central African Republic and Sangha Mbaere for over 20 years," says Calvelli. "One of our scientists has been embedded in that site monitoring this mbaere where literally hundred of elephants come together.
“The Seleka Front was coming through this area and our scientists had to be evacuated. They killed over 26 elephants in the span of a couple of days. It would have been worse but for the actions taken by the Gabonese government and others to help stop that.”
A major wave of poaching has been moving across Africa from west to east and north to south, says Calvelli. Humanitarian groups that track evidence of genocide by armed militias have also seen the trends. Some poliitical activists have joined forces with environmentalists.
Calvelli says, “In Congo, the humanitarian Enough Project sent two researchers to the Garama National Park in Congo to see how Joseph Kony and the Lord’s Resistance Army was funding its activities. They came back from their studies on June 3 of 2013 and said one of the ways we have to stop Joseph Kony is to make the sale of ivory illegal.”
Even rogue units of national armies poach
Many of those interviewed called their charges “anecdotal information,” which reveals how little those who would enforce anti-poaching laws really know what happens deep in Africa’s protected areas. Darby says there is a lot about the dynamics of wildlife trafficking that authorities do not know for certain.

But the U.S. government believes some national armies are guilty of poaching.
“There is actually some evidence of military elements from some countries being involved in this trade,” Darby says. “It’s discussed a little bit in the report that was prepared by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence.
The elephant in the room
“That is something we are concerned about and similarly its corruption that helps to aid this trade. So, dealing with the corruption side of the house is also something we are focused on.
A former U.S. Justice Department prosecutor of wildlife cases, John Webb, says the battle against Africa’s poaching dilemma will have to be fought within Africa’s own government.
“The overarching impediment to effective enforcement against poaching and trafficking is corruption,” says Webb. “And that is – and I know I’m going to make a bad joke here - but that is the elephant in the room.”

You May Like

Germany Celebrates 25 Years of Unity

October 3 is a public holiday, marking the day in 1990 when East Germany and West Germany reunited More

Analysts: Russia's Syria Strikes Shake Regional Powers

If Moscow bolsters Assad, Saudi Arabia, other Gulf countries may feel obliged to step in More

Video Innovative Nano-Tech Water Filter Prevents Disease

It can absorb contaminants like copper, bacteria, viruses and pesticides, says Askwar Hilonga, who has been successfully trying out his product in Arusha More

This forum has been closed.
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Russia’s Syria Involvement Raising Concerns in Europei
Luis Ramirez
October 02, 2015 4:45 PM
European nations are joining the United States in demanding that Russia stop targeting opposition groups other than the Islamic State militants as Russian warplanes continue to conduct raids in Syria. The demand came in a statement from Britain, France, Germany, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and the United States Friday. VOA Europe correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.

Video Russia’s Syria Involvement Raising Concerns in Europe

European nations are joining the United States in demanding that Russia stop targeting opposition groups other than the Islamic State militants as Russian warplanes continue to conduct raids in Syria. The demand came in a statement from Britain, France, Germany, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and the United States Friday. VOA Europe correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.

Video First Self-Driving Truck Debuts on European Highways

The first automated semi-trailer truck started its maiden voyage Friday, Oct. 2, on a European highway. The Daimler truck called 'Actros' is the first potentially mass-produced truck whose driver will be required only to monitor the situation, similar to the role of an airline captain while the plane is in autopilot mode. VOA’s George Putic reports.

Video Nano-tech Filter Cleans Dirty Water

Access to clean water is a problem for hundreds of millions of people around the world. Now, a scientist and chemical engineer in Tanzania (in East Africa) is working to change that by creating an innovative water filter that makes dirty water safe. VOA’s Deborah Block has the story.

Video Demand Rising for Organic Produce in Cambodia

In Cambodia, where rice has long been the main cash crop, farmers are being encouraged to turn to vegetables to satisfy the growing demand for locally produced organic farm products. Daniel de Carteret has more from Phnom Penh.

Video Migrant Influx Costs Europe, But Economy Could Benefit

The influx of hundreds of thousands of refugees and migrants is testing Europe’s ability to respond – especially in the poorer Balkan states. But some analysts argue that Europe will benefit by welcoming the huge numbers of young people – many of them well educated and willing to work. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.

Video Botanists Grow Furniture, with Pruning Shears

For something a bit out of the ordinary to furnish your home, why not consider wooden chairs, crafted by nature, with a little help from some British botanists with an eye for design. VOA’s Jessica Berman reports.

Video New Fabric Helps Fight Dust-Related Allergies

Many people around the world suffer from dust-related allergies, caused mainly by tiny mites that live in bed linen. Polish scientists report they have successfully tested a fabric that is impenetrable to the microscopic creatures. VOA’s George Putic has more.

Video Burkina Faso's Economy Deeply Affected by Political Turmoil

Political turmoil in Burkina Faso over the past year has taken a toll on the economy. The transitional government is reporting nearly $70 million in losses in the ten days that followed a short-lived coup by members of the presidential guard earlier this month. The crisis shut businesses and workers went on strike. With elections on the horizon, Emilie Iob reports on what a return to political stability can do for the country's economic recovery.

Video Fleeing Violence, Some Syrians Find Refuge in Irbil

As Syrians continue to flee their country’s unrest to seek new lives in safer places, VOA Persian Service reporter Shepol Abbassi visited Irbil, where a number Syrians have taken refuge. During the religious holidy of Eid al-Adha, the city largely shut down, as temperatures soared. Amy Katz narrates his report.

Video Nigeria’s Wecyclers Work for Reusable Future in Lagos

The streets and lagoons of Africa's largest city - Lagos, Nigeria - are often clogged with trash, almost none of which gets recycled. One company is trying to change that. Chris Stein reports for VOA from Lagos.

Video Sketch Artist Helps Catch Criminals, Gives a Face to Deceased

Police often face the problem of trying to find a crime suspect based on general descriptions that could fit hundreds of people in the vicinity of the crime. In these cases, an artist can use information from witnesses to sketch a likeness that police can show the public via newspapers and television. But, as VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Houston, such sketches can also help bring back faces of the dead.

Video Thailand Set to Build China-like Internet Firewall

Thai authorities are planning to tighten control over the Internet, creating a single international access point so they can better monitor content. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from Bangkok on what is being called Thailand’s own "Great Firewall."

Video Croatian Town’s War History Evokes Empathy for Migrants

As thousands of Afghanistan, Iraqi and Syrian migrants pass through Croatia, locals are reminded of their own experiences with war and refugees in the 1990s. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from the town of Vukovar, where wartime scars still are visible today.

Video Long Drought Affecting California’s Sequoias

California is suffering under a historic four-year drought and scientists say even the state's famed sequoia trees are feeling the pain. The National Park Service has started detailed research to see how it can help the oldest living things on earth survive. VOA’s George Putic reports.

VOA Blogs