News / Africa

Report: Militarization of Poaching

Born Free and C4ADS say elephant poaching is several hundred million dollar industry. (Credit: Born Free USA)
Born Free and C4ADS say elephant poaching is several hundred million dollar industry. (Credit: Born Free USA)

Multimedia

Audio
Joe DeCapua
A new report says organized crime, government corruption and militias are all linked to elephant poaching and the illegal ivory trade. It says poachers in Zimbabwe, Tanzania, Sudan and Kenya move across borders with near impunity.
 
The report is called Ivory’s Curse: The Militarization and Professionalization of Poaching in Africa. It’s a joint effort by the conservation group Born Free USA and C4ADS, a non-profit organization that analyzes the drivers of conflict and insecurity.
 
Adam Roberts, Born Free USA CEO, said, “For years, Born Free USA and other animal advocates have campaigned against the trade in elephant ivory, but on conservation and animal welfare concerns. And we wanted to find a little bit more detail about who was behind the ivory trade. It’s not just enough to say it’s criminal syndicates, nefarious profiteers. We wanted to know who is really behind it so that we can try and get governments around the world to do more to crackdown.”
 
Roberts said Born Free needed some help in gathering that kind of information.
 
“That’s one of the reasons that we commissioned C4ADS to do the report for us. Because I think the breadth of our capabilities within the conservation community are pretty much limited to conservation. But having a defense analyst that looks at the militarism behind all of these poaching incidents gives them access to information that we wouldn’t otherwise have,” he said.
 
The report provided regional case studies of the ivory trade. For example, in Sudan, the report said “government-allied militias complicit in the Darfur genocide fund their operations by poaching elephants.” But it goes on to state that poaching occurs hundreds of miles outside of Sudan’s borders.
 
In Somalia, the report blamed the militant group al-Shabab and criminal networks, who poach in neighboring Kenya. The weapons they use, it said, come from local security forces.
 
“It’s not going to come as a shock to anyone that Somalia is implicated in the ivory trade. And again, much like Sudan, you have these actors that are able to move cross borders – from Somalia to different countries in the region. But probably the biggest part of that though is the inability of some of those surrounding countries – those neighboring countries – to deter the ivory trade from the people in neither Sudan nor Somalia because they lack the resources to do so,” he said.
 
The report said organized crime in Mozambique is “willing to battle the South African army and park rangers to poach Rhino horn.”
 
In Gabon and the Republic of Congo, it said that forest exploitation has allowed East Asian organized crime to come to the region and poach Central Africa’s elephants.
 
And Roberts said Zimbabwe continues to be a poaching hot spot.
 
“Partly what’s happening with poaching in Zimbabwe is a result of the political situation where you have a regime that’s been in place for so long that we feel is complicit in the ivory trade because of giving impunity to the actors involved in the ivory trade in the country. That it’s very hard to get a handle on what’s happening. You know, in 1997, when the international ban on trade in elephant ivory was first undermined, one of the countries that was behind that was Zimbabwe. And the meeting, the international meeting where that happened, was held in Harare.”
 
The Born Free USA CEO said combating poaching requires a coordinated strategy all along the ivory trade chain.
 
He said, “So it’s not enough to talk about demand reduction in Asia, which could take years and years to accomplish. And it’s not just about putting boots on the ground, so to speak, and equipping rangers. You have to look at all the different choke points where you can make an impact, including the shipping routes. And so the more we can do to try and close down the ability of these nefarious individuals to move the ivory from elephants that have been slaughtered the more success we’ll have in keeping it off the market in the first place.”
 
Roberts said that coordinated strategy against elephant poaching must, once again, include an “unequivocal international ban on ivory.” In 1989, members of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species – or CITES – agreed to ban international trade in ivory.
 
“Since 1997, you’ve had a continual weakening of that ban. And the more that that happens the more individuals realize that there’s a market either now or in the near future for ivory,” he said.
 
Roberts said there must also be a crackdown on domestic markets. What’s more, he said, problem countries should be readily identified, accompanied by targeted recommendations.
 
“The recommendations that might occur in, say, Tanzania or Zimbabwe, which are related to corruption, are not going to be the same recommendations that you would want in a place like Kenya, where you need to really bolster the infrastructure to ward off the poachers.”
 
The report – Ivory’s Curse – said the ivory trade is “essentially a large-scale illicit resource transfer from Africa to Asia.”
 
Roberts said, “You’re looking at thousands of dollars per kilo of ivory these days, which is sort of back to the pre-1989 international ban levels. The price of ivory has been rising considerably. It’s definitely becoming a conflict resource much like coltan or diamonds in Africa. But when you’re looking at that kind of money, you’re ultimately ending up in a trade that’s worth perhaps hundreds of millions of dollars each year.”
 
Robert called the report a first step. He says he hopes it will encourage defense and foreign affairs officials to get involved.

You May Like

On Everest, Helicopters Rescue Stranded Climbers

Choppers transport some of more than 100 mountaineers trapped after deadly quake, avalanches More

Video Ten Years After Riots, France Searches for Answers to Neglected Suburbs

In 2005, a Paris suburb exploded into violence after two teenagers were electrocuted as they hid from police; since then, somethings have changed, others not More

US, Japan Announce Historic Revision of Defense Cooperation Guidelines

Nations say new guidelines will be 'cornerstone for peace and security' in Asia-Pacific region while also serving as 'platform for a more stable international security environment' More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
‘Angel of the Migrants’ Helps Desperate Syrians Arriving in Europei
X
Henry Ridgwell
April 26, 2015 10:36 PM
Waves of migrants are continuing to arrive on the shores of southern Italy from North Africa. After their dangerous journey across the Mediterranean, they face an unknown future in Europe. In the Sicilian city of Catania there is an activist dedicated to helping the refugees on their journey.
Video

Video ‘Angel of the Migrants’ Helps Desperate Syrians Arriving in Europe

Waves of migrants are continuing to arrive on the shores of southern Italy from North Africa. After their dangerous journey across the Mediterranean, they face an unknown future in Europe. In the Sicilian city of Catania there is an activist dedicated to helping the refugees on their journey.
Video

Video Ten Years After Riots, France Searches for Answers to Neglected Suburbs

January’s terrorist attacks and fears of more to come are casting a spotlight on France’s neglected suburbs. Home to many immigrants, and sometimes hubs of crime, they were rocked by rioting a decade ago. Lisa Bryant visited the Paris suburb of Clichy-sous-Bois, where the 2005 violence first broke out, and has this report about what has changed and what has not.
Video

Video Gay Marriage Goes Before US Supreme Court

This week, the U.S. Supreme Court will hear arguments on whether gay people have a constitutional right to marriage. VOA’s Michael Bowman reports, the case could lead to the nationwide legalization of same-sex marriage, or a continuation of the status quo in which individual states decide whether to recognize gay unions.
Video

Video Study: Insecticide Damaging Wild Bee Populations

A popular but controversial type of insecticide is damaging important wild bee populations, according to a new study. VOA’s Steve Baragona has more.
Video

Video Data Servers Could Heat Private Homes

As every computer owner knows, when their machines run a complex program they get pretty hot. In fact, cooling the processors can be expensive, especially when you're dealing with huge banks of computer servers. But what if that energy could heat private homes? VOA’s George Putic reports that a Dutch energy firm aims to do just that.
Video

Video Cinema That Crosses Borders Showcased at Tribeca Film Festival

Among the nearly 100 feature length films being shown at this year’s Tribeca Film Festival in New York City are more than 20 documentaries and features with international appeal, from a film about a Congolese businessman in China, to documentaries shot in Pakistan and diaspora communities in the U.S., to a poetic look at disaffected South African youth. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver has more.
Video

Video UN Confronts Threat of Young Radicals

The radicalization and recruitment of young people into Islamist extremist groups has become a growing challenge for governments worldwide. On Thursday, the U.N. Security Council heard from experts on the issue, which has become a potent threat to international peace and security. VOA’s Margaret Besheer reports.
Video

Video Growing Numbers of Turks Discover Armenian Ancestry

In a climate of improved tolerance, growing numbers of people in Turkey are discovering their grandmothers were Armenian. Hundreds of thousands of Armenians escaped the mass deportations and slaughter of the early 1900's by forced conversion to Islam. Or, Armenian children were taken in by Turkish families and assimilated. Now their stories are increasingly being heard. Dorian Jones reports from Istanbul that the revelations are viewed as an important step.
Video

Video Migrants Trek Through Western Balkans to Reach EU

Migrants from Africa and other places are finding different routes into the European Union in search of a better life. The Associated Press followed one clandestine group to document their trek through the western Balkans to Hungary. Zlatica Hoke reports that the migrants started using that route about four years ago. Since then, it has become the second-most popular path into Western Europe, after the option of sailing from North Africa to Italy.
Video

Video US Businesses See Cuba as New Frontier

The Obama administration's opening toward Cuba is giving U.S. companies hope they'll be able to do business in Cuba despite the continuation of the U.S. economic embargo against the communist nation. Some American companies have been able to export some products to Cuba, but the recent lifting of Cuba's terrorism designation could relax other restrictions. As VOA's Daniela Schrier reports, corporate heavy hitters are lining up to head across the Florida Straits - though experts urge caution.
Video

Video Kenya Launches Police Recruitment Drive After Terror Attacks

Kenya launched a major police recruitment drive this week as part of a large-scale effort to boost security following a recent spate of terror attacks. VOA’s Gabe Joselow reports that allegations of corruption in the process are raising old concerns about the integrity of Kenya’s security forces.
Video

Video Japan, China in Race for Asia High-Speed Rail Projects

A lucrative competition is underway in Asia for billions of dollars in high-speed rail projects. Cambodia, India, Indonesia, Malaysia Thailand and Vietnam are among the countries planning to move onto the fast track. They are negotiating with Japan and the upstart Chinese who are locked in a duel to revolutionize transportation across Asia. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman in Bangkok has details.
Video

Video Scientists: Mosquitoes Attracted By Our Genes

Some people always seem to get bitten by mosquitoes more than others. Now, scientists have proved that is really the case - and they say it’s all because of genes. It’s hoped the research might lead to new preventative treatments for diseases like malaria, as Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Bible Museum Coming to Washington DC

Washington is the center of American political power and also home to some of the nation’s most visited museums. A new one that will showcase the Bible has skeptics questioning the motives of its conservative Christian funders. VOA religion correspondent Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Afghan First Lady Pledges No Roll Back on Women's Rights

Afghan First Lady Rula Ghani, named one of Time's 100 Most Influential, says women should take part in talks with Taliban. VOA's Rokhsar Azamee has more from Kabul.

VOA Blogs