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

    Video For Many US Veterans, the Vietnam War Continues

    More than 40 years after it ended, war in Vietnam and America’s role in it continue to provoke bitter debate, especially among those who fought in it

    Video Newest US Citizens, Writing the Next Great Chapter

    100 immigrants graduated Friday as US citizens in New York, joining the ranks of 680,000 others every year in cities across country

    Family's Fight Pays Off With Arlington Cemetery Burial Rights for WASPs

    Policy that allowed the Women Airforce Service Pilots veterans to receive burial rites at Arlington had been revoked in 2015

    By the Numbers

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Vietnamese-American Youth Optimistic About Obama's Visit to Vietnami
    X
    Elizabeth Lee
    May 22, 2016 6:04 AM
    U.S. President Barack Obama's visit to Vietnam later this month comes at a time when Vietnam is seeking stronger ties with the United States. Many Vietnamese Americans, especially the younger generation, are optimistic Obama’s trip will help further reconciliation between the two former foes. Elizabeth Lee has more from the community called "Little Saigon" located south of Los Angeles.
    Video

    Video Vietnamese-American Youth Optimistic About Obama's Visit to Vietnam

    U.S. President Barack Obama's visit to Vietnam later this month comes at a time when Vietnam is seeking stronger ties with the United States. Many Vietnamese Americans, especially the younger generation, are optimistic Obama’s trip will help further reconciliation between the two former foes. Elizabeth Lee has more from the community called "Little Saigon" located south of Los Angeles.
    Video

    Video First-generation, Afghan-American Student Sets Sights on Basketball Glory

    Their parents are immigrants to the United States. They are kids who live between two worlds -- their parents' homeland and the U.S. For many of them, they feel most "American" at school. It can be tricky balancing both worlds. In this report, produced by Beth Mendelson, Arash Arabasadi tells us about one Afghan-American student who seems to be coping -- one shot at a time.
    Video

    Video Newest US Citizens, Writing the Next Great Chapter

    While universities across the United States honor their newest graduates this Friday, many immigrants in downtown Manhattan are celebrating, too. One hundred of them, representing 31 countries across four continents, graduated as U.S. citizens, joining the ranks of 680,000 others every year in New York and cities around the country.
    Video

    Video Vietnam Sees Strong Economic Growth Despite Incomplete Reforms

    Vietnam has transformed its communist economy to become one of the world's fastest-growing nations. While the reforms are incomplete, multinational corporations see a profitable future in Vietnam and have made major investments -- as VOA's Jim Randle reports.
    Video

    Video Qatar Denies World Cup Corruption

    The head of Qatar’s organizing committee for the 2022 World Cup insists his country's bid to host the soccer tournament was completely clean, despite the corruption scandals that have rocked the sport’s governing body, FIFA. Hassan Al-Thawadi also said new laws would offer protection to migrants working on World Cup construction projects. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
    Video

    Video Infrastructure Funding Puts Cambodia on Front Line of International Politics

    When leaders of the world’s seven most developed economies meet in Japan next week, demands for infrastructure investment world wide will be high on the agenda. Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s push for “quality infrastructure investment” throughout Asia has been widely viewed as a counter to the rise of Chinese investment flooding into region.
    Video

    Video Democrats Fear Party Unity a Casualty in Clinton-Sanders Battle

    Democratic presidential front-runner Hillary Clinton claimed a narrow victory in Tuesday's Kentucky primary even as rival Bernie Sanders won in Oregon. Tensions between the two campaigns are rising, prompting fears that the party will have a difficult time unifying to face the presumptive Republican nominee, Donald Trump. VOA national correspondent Jim Malone has more from Washington.
    Video

    Video Portrait of a Transgender Marriage: Husband and Wife Navigate New Roles

    As controversy continues in North Carolina over the use of public bathrooms by transgender individuals, personal struggles with gender identity that were once secret are now coming to light. VOA’s Tina Trinh explored the ramifications for one couple as part of trans.formation, a series of stories on transgender issues.
    Video

    Video Amerikan Hero Flips Stereotype of Middle Eastern Character

    An Iranian American comedian is hoping to connect with American audiences through a film that inverts some of Hollywood's stereotypes about Middle Eastern characters. Sama Dizayee reports.
    Video

    Video Budding Young Inventors Tackle City's Problems with 3-D Printing

    Every city has problems, and local officials and politicians are often frustrated by their inability to solve them. But surprising solutions can come from unexpected places. Students in Baltimore. Maryland, took up the challenge to solve problems they identified in their city, and came up with projects and products to make a difference. VOA's June Soh has more on a digital fabrication competition primarily focused on 3-D design and printing. Carol Pearson narrates.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora