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

UN Ambassador Power Highlights Plight of Women Prisoners

She launches the 'Free the 20' campaign, aimed at profiling women being deprived of their freedom around the world More

Satellite Launch Sparks Spectacular Light Show

A slight delay in a satellite launch lit up the Florida sky early this morning More

Fleeing IS Killings in Syria, Family Reaches Bavaria

Exhausted, scared and under-nourished, Khalil and Maha's tale mirrors those of thousands of refugees from war-torn countries who have left their homes in the hopes of finding a better life More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Nobel Prize Winner Malala Talks to VOAi
X
August 31, 2015 2:17 AM
Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai met with VOA's Deewa service in Washington Sunday to talk about women’s rights and unveil a trailer for her new documentary. VOA's Katherine Gypson has more.
Video

Video Nobel Prize Winner Malala Talks to VOA

Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai met with VOA's Deewa service in Washington Sunday to talk about women’s rights and unveil a trailer for her new documentary. VOA's Katherine Gypson has more.
Video

Video War, Drought Threaten Iraq's Marshlands

Iraq's southern wetlands are in crisis. These areas are the spawning ground for Gulf fisheries, a resting place for migrating wildfowl, and source of livelihood for fishermen and herders. Faith Lapidus has more.
Video

Video Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalates

Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Rebuilding New Orleans' Music Scene

Ten years after Hurricane Katrina inundated New Orleans, threatening to wash away its vibrant musical heritage along with its neighborhoods, the beat goes on. As Bronwyn Benito and Faith Lapidus report, a Musicians' Village is preserving the city's unique sound.
Video

Video In Russia, Auto Industry in Tailspin

Industry insiders say country relies too heavily on imports as inflation cuts too many consumers out of the market. Daniel Schearf has more from Moscow.
Video

Video Scientist Calls Use of Fetal Tissue in Medical Research Essential

An anti-abortion group responsible for secret recordings of workers at a women's health care organization claims the workers shown are offering baby parts for sale, a charge the organization strongly denies. While the selling of fetal tissue is against the law in the United States, abortion and the use of donated fetal tissue for medical research are both legal. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video Next to Iran, Climate at Forefront of Obama Agenda

President Barack Obama this week announced new initiatives aimed at making it easier for Americans to access renewable energy sources such as solar and wind. Obama is not slowing down when it comes to pushing through climate change measures, an issue he says is the greatest threat to the country’s national security. VOA correspondent Aru Pande has more from the White House.
Video

Video Arctic Draws International Competition for Oil

A new geopolitical “Great Game” is underway in earth’s northernmost region, the Arctic, where Russia has claimed a large area for resource development and President Barack Obama recently approved Shell Oil Company’s test-drilling project in an area under U.S. control. Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Philippine Maritime Police: Chinese Fishermen a Threat to Country’s Security

China and the Philippines both claim maritime rights in the South China Sea.  That includes the right to fish in those waters. Jason Strother reports on how the Philippines is catching Chinese nationals it says are illegal poachers. He has the story from Palawan province.
Video

Video China's Spratly Island Building Said to Light Up the Night 'Like A City'

Southeast Asian countries claim China has illegally seized territory in the Spratly islands. It is especially a concern for a Philippine mayor who says Beijing is occupying parts of his municipality. Jason Strother reports from the capital of Palawan province, Puerto Princesa.
Video

Video Ages-old Ice Reveals Secrets of Climate Change

Ice caps don't just exist at the world's poles. There are also tropical ice caps, and the largest sits atop the Peruvian Andes - but it is melting, quickly, and may be gone within the next 20 years. George Putic reports scientists are now rushing to take samples to get at the valuable information about climate change locked in the ice.

VOA Blogs