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
...    
🔇
X

“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

Captured IS Militants Explain Why They Fought

Fighters from Turkey, Syria tell VOA Kurdish Service what drew them to extremism, jihad More

Security Experts Split on Kenyan Barrier Wall

Experts divided on whether initiative aiming to keep out al-Shabab militants is long-awaited solution or misguided effort More

Video Philippines Wants Tourists Spending Money at New Casinos

Officials say they hope to turn Manila into the next Macau, which has long been Asia’s gambling hub More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
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.
Liberia's Almost Last Ebola Patient Grateful but Still Grievingi
X
Benno Muchler
March 26, 2015 3:41 PM
Beatrice Yardolo was to make history as Liberia’s last Ebola patient. Liberians recently started counting down 42 days, the period that has to go by without a single new infection until the World Health Organization can declare a country Ebola-free. That countdown stopped on March 20 when there was another new case of Ebola, making Yardolo’s story a reminder that Ebola is far from over. Benno Muchler reports from Monrovia.
Video

Video Liberia's Almost Last Ebola Patient Grateful but Still Grieving

Beatrice Yardolo was to make history as Liberia’s last Ebola patient. Liberians recently started counting down 42 days, the period that has to go by without a single new infection until the World Health Organization can declare a country Ebola-free. That countdown stopped on March 20 when there was another new case of Ebola, making Yardolo’s story a reminder that Ebola is far from over. Benno Muchler reports from Monrovia.
Video

Video Cambodian Land Grabs Threaten Traditional Communities

Indigenous communities in Cambodia's Ratanakiri province say the government’s economic land concession policy is taking away their land and traditional way of life, making many fear that their identity will soon be lost. Local authorities, though, have denied this is the case. VOA's Say Mony went to investigate and filed this report, narrated by Colin Lovett.
Video

Video US, South Korea Conduct Joint Military Exercises

The Eighth U.S. Army Division and the Eighth Republic of Korea Mechanized Infantry Division put on a well orchestrated show of force for the media this week during their joint military training exercises in South Korea. VOA’s Seoul correspondent Brian Padden was there and reports the soldiers were well disciplined both in conducting a complex live fire exercise and in staying on message with the press.
Video

Video Space Program Status Disappoints 'Last Man on the Moon'

One of the films that drew big crowds last week at the annual South by Southwest festival in Austin, Texas, tells the story of the last human being to stand on the moon, U.S. astronaut Eugene Cernan. It has been 42 years since Cernan returned from the moon and he laments that no one else has gone there since. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Young Filmmakers Shine Spotlight on Giving Back

A group of student filmmakers from across the United States joined President Barack Obama at the White House this month for the second annual White House Student Film Festival. Fifteen short films were officially selected from more than 1,500 entries by students aged 6 through 18. The filmmakers and their families then joined the president and a group of celebrities for a screening of their films. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video VOA Exclusive: Interview with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, during his first visit as president to Washington, gave a one-on-one interview with VOA Afghan Service reporter Said Suleiman Ashna, about his request for a change in U.S. troop levels, the threat from the Islamic State, and repairing relations with the United States and Pakistan. The interview was held at Blair House, late Sunday, in Pashto.
Video

Video California Science Center Tells Story of Dead Sea Scrolls

The ancient manuscripts were uncovered in the mid-20th century, and they are still yielding clues about life and religious beliefs in ancient Israel. As VOA's Mike O'Sullivan reports, an exhibit in Los Angeles shows how modern science is bringing the history of these ancient documents to life.
Video

Video Angelina Jolie Takes Another Bold Step

Hollywood actress and filmmaker Angelina Jolie has revealed she had her ovaries and fallopian tubes removed to lower her odds of getting cancer. Doctors say the huge publicity over her decision will help raise awareness about the importance of cancer screening. VOA’s George Putic has more

All About America

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More