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

As AIDS Epidemic Matures, Workplaces Adapt

Issue of AIDS in workplace is one of many social issues being discussed at the 20th International Aids Conference in Australia More

Is Air Travel Safe?

Aviation expert says despite tragic losses of Malaysian Airlines flights 370 and 17, industry experienced lowest fatality rate in recorded history last year More

100 Days Later, Nigerian Girls Still Held

Activists holding rallies in Nigeria and several other countries to mark 100th day of captivity for more than 200 schoolgirls being held by Boko Haram 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.
IAEA: Iran Turns its Enriched Uranium Into Less Harmful Formi
X
July 22, 2014 10:26 AM
Iran has converted its stockpiles of enriched uranium into a less dangerous form that is more difficult to use for nuclear weapons, according to the United Nations’ Atomic Energy Agency. The move complies with an interim deal reached with Western powers on Iran's nuclear program last year, in exchange for easing of sanctions. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.
Video

Video IAEA: Iran Turns its Enriched Uranium Into Less Harmful Form

Iran has converted its stockpiles of enriched uranium into a less dangerous form that is more difficult to use for nuclear weapons, according to the United Nations’ Atomic Energy Agency. The move complies with an interim deal reached with Western powers on Iran's nuclear program last year, in exchange for easing of sanctions. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.
Video

Video Relic of Saint Draws Catholics Worried About Immigration Issue

A Roman Catholic saint who is a figure of devotion for those crossing the border into the United States is attracting believers concerned about the plight of undocumented immigrants. Mike O'Sullivan reports from Los Angeles, where a relic of Saint Toribio has drawn thousands to local churches.
Video

Video Ukraine Rebels Surrender MH17 Black Boxes

After days of negotiations, a senior separatist leader handed over two black boxes from an airliner downed over eastern Ukraine to Malaysian experts early Tuesday. While on Monday, the U.N. Security Council unanimously demanded that armed groups controlling the crash site allow safe and unrestricted access to the wreckage.
Video

Video In Cambodia, HIV Diagnosis Brings Deadly Shame

Although HIV/AIDS is now a treatable condition, a positive diagnosis is still a life altering experience. In Cambodia, people living with HIV are often disowned by friends, family and the community. This humiliation can be unbearable. We bring you one Cambodian woman’s struggle to overcome a life tragedy and her own HIV positive diagnosis.
Video

Video Nature of Space Exploration Enters New Age

Forty-five years ago this month, the first humans walked on the moon. It was during an era of the space race between the United States and the Soviet Union. World politics have changed since then and -- as Elizabeth Lee reports -- so has the nature of space exploration.
Video

Video Chicago’s Argonne Lab Developing Battery of the Future

In 2012, the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Science awarded a $120 million grant to a new technology center focused on battery development - headquartered at Argonne National Laboratory in suburban Chicago, Illinois. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, there scientists are making the next technological breakthroughs in energy storage.
Video

Video In NW Pakistan, Army Offensive Causes Massive Number of Displaced

Pakistan’s army offensive in North Waziristan has resulted in the large-scale displacement of the local population. VOA's Ayaz Gul reports from northwest Pakistan where authorities say around 80 percent of the estimated 1 million internally displaced persons [IDPs] have settled in Bannu district, while much of the remaining 20 percent are scattered in nearby cities.
Video

Video Kurdish Peshmerga Force Secures Kirkuk, Its Oil

The Kurdistan regional government has sent its Peshmerga troops into the adjacent province of Kirkuk to drive out insurgents, and to secure the area's rich oil fields. By doing this, the regional government has added a fourth province to the three it officially controls. The oil also provides revenue that could make an independent Kurdistan economically strong. VOA’s Jeffrey Young went out with the Peshmerga and filed this report.
Video

Video Malaysia Reeling: Second Air Disaster in Four Months

Malaysia is reeling from the second air disaster in four months involving the country’s flag carrier. Flight 340 vanished in March and despite an extensive search, no debris has been found. And on Thursday, Flight 17, likely hit by a surface-to-air missile, came apart over eastern Ukraine. The two incidents together have left more than 500 people dead. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from Kuala Lumpur.

AppleAndroid