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

Video Falling Gas Prices Impact US Oil Extraction

With the price of oil now less than $80 a barrel, motorists throughout the US are seeing gas prices dip below $3 a gallon More

Afghan Women's Soccer Team Building for the Future

A four-team female league was recently set up in Kabul; It will help identify players for the national team More

Video Tensions Build on Korean Peninsula Amid Military Drills

Pyongyang threatens nuclear test as joint US, S. Korean exercises show forces’ capabilities 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.
New Skateboard Defies Gravityi
X
November 21, 2014 5:07 AM
A futuristic dream only a couple of decades ago, the hoverboard – a skateboard that floats above the ground - has finally been made possible. While still not ready for mass production, it promises to become a cool mode of transport... at least over some surfaces. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video New Skateboard Defies Gravity

A futuristic dream only a couple of decades ago, the hoverboard – a skateboard that floats above the ground - has finally been made possible. While still not ready for mass production, it promises to become a cool mode of transport... at least over some surfaces. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Falling Gas Prices Impact US Oil Extraction

With the price of oil now less than $80 a barrel, motorists throughout the United States are benefiting from gas prices below $3 a gallon. But as VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, the decreasing price of petroleum has a downside for the hydraulic fracturing industry in the United States.
Video

Video Tensions Build on Korean Peninsula Amid Military Drills

It has been another tense week on the Korean peninsula as Pyongyang threatened to again test nuclear weapons while the U.S. and South Korean forces held joint military exercises in a show of force. VOA’s Brian Padden reports from the Kunsan Air Base in South Korea.
Video

Video Mama Sarah Obama Honored at UN Women’s Entrepreneurship Day

President Barack Obama's step-grandmother is in the United States to raise money to build a $12 million school and hospital center in Kogelo, Kenya, the birthplace of the president's father, Barack Obama, Sr. She was honored for her decades of work to aid poor Kenyans at a Women's Entrepreneurship Day at the United Nations.
Video

Video Gay Evangelicals Argue That Bible Does Not Condemn Homosexuality

More than 30 U.S. states now recognize same-sex marriages, and an increasing number of mainline American churches are blessing them. But evangelical church members- which account for around 30 percent of the U.S. adult population - believe the Bible unequivocally condemns homosexuality. VOA's Jerome Socolovsky reports that gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender evangelicals are coming out. Backed by a prominent evangelical scholar, they argue that the traditional reading of the bible is wrong.
Video

Video Ebola Economic Toll Stirs W. Africa Food Security Concerns

The World Bank said Wednesday that it expects the economic impact of the Ebola outbreak on the sub-Saharan economy to cost somewhere betweenf $3 billion to $4 billion - well below a previously-outlined worst-case scenario of $32 billion. Some economists, however, paint a gloomier picture - warning that the disruption to regional markets and trading is considerable. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Mexico Protests Escalate Over Disappearances

Protests in Mexico over 43 students missing since September continue to escalate, reflecting growing anger among Mexicans about a political system they view as corrupt, and increasingly tainted by the drug trade. Mounting outrage over the disappearances is now focused on the government of President Enrique Pena Nieto, accused of not doing enough to end insecurity in the country. More from VOA's Victoria Macchi.
Video

Video US Senate Votes Down Controversial Oil Pipeline - For Now

The U.S. Senate has rejected construction of a controversial pipeline to transport Canadian oil to American refineries. The $5 billion project still could be approved next year, but it faces a possible veto by President Barack Obama. As VOA’s Michael Bowman reports, the pipeline has exposed deep divisions in Congress about America’s energy future.
Video

Video Can Minsk Cease-fire Agreement Hold?

Growing tensions between government troops and separatists in eastern Ukraine further threaten a cease-fire agreement reached two months ago in the Belarusian capital of Minsk. Critics of U.S. policy in Ukraine say it is time the Obama administration gives up on that much-violated cease-fire and moves toward a new deal with Russia. VOA's Scott Stearns has more.
Video

Video Chaos, Abuse Defy Solution in Libya

The political and security crisis in Libya is deepening, with competing governments and, according to Amnesty International, widespread human rights violations committed with impunity. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London.
Video

Video US Hosts Record 866,000 Foreign Students

Close to 900,000 international students are studying at American universities and colleges, more than ever before. About half of them come from Asia, mostly China. The United States hosts more foreign students than any other country in the world, and its foreign student population is steadily growing. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Ferguson Church Grapples with Race Relations

Many white residents of Ferguson, Missouri, say they chose to live there because of the American Midwest community's diversity. So, they were shocked when a white police officer killed an unarmed black teenager in August – and shaken by the resulting protests and violence. Some local churches are leading conversations on how to go forward. VOA’s Ayesha Tanzeem reports.

All About America

AppleAndroid