News / Africa

Africa’s Dead Elephants Emerge as US National Security Issue

In a U.S. crackdown, confiscated ivory was stacked for crushing last year at the National Wildlife Property Repository at Rocky Mountain Arsenal National Wildlife Refuge in Commerce City, Colorado.
In a U.S. crackdown, confiscated ivory was stacked for crushing last year at the National Wildlife Property Repository at Rocky Mountain Arsenal National Wildlife Refuge in Commerce City, Colorado.
William Eagle
The illegal killing of elephants in a national park in Kenya is now a national security issue in Washington, D.C. and in many more countries far from Africa. The issue of elephant poaching intensifies as Kenya announced news of the slaughter last week by poachers of Satao, one of Africa's largest elephants.
Governments are now talking about joining forces to get tough on the poaching and trafficking of elephant tusks and rhino horns, illegal activity that some experts say is a now a $20-billion business not just for poaching and traffickers but for armed terrorists as well.

Governments are sending a message to those who buy ivory. Under the Eiffel Tower in Paris, the French government destroyed three tons of ivory before television cameras. The United States pulled six tons from a warehouse and publicly crushed them for photographers in Colorado. China crushed six tons of ivory tusks in Guangdong province and incinerated another 28 tons in Hong Kong.
 
  • CHINA  Retired Houston Rockets basketball star Yao Ming toured devastated areas of Kenya's wildlife parks to tell millions of China's television viewers to stop buying ivory. He examined the carcass of an elephant in Samburu in August,  2012. 
  • KENYA  Tsavo National Park east of Nairobi burned five tons of ivory in 2011 that were seized from shipments discovered in Singapore and poached from herds in Malawi and Zambia.
  • TOGO  A trio of smugglers - one of them Vietnamese - were displayed after authorities in Lome discovered two shipping containers marked timber and cashew nuts contained 500 elephant tusks worth $8 million bound for Vietnam's black market. DNA tests revealed the tusks were poached from at least nine other African countries.
  • UNITED STATES   The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service crushed six tons of ivory seized in the United States on November 14, 2013, declaring new federal government efforts to ban new and antique ivory in one of the world's largest ivory markets.
  • DIPLOMACY  Former secretary of state Hillary Clinton is credited by some conservationists with making a long-time conservation issue a question of global strategy to fight terrorism in Africa. She even made the case before Albania's parliament (above) in November, 2012.
     
  • CHINA   Customs officers guard six tons of illegal ivory about to be crushed in Dongguan, southern Guangdong province, China Monday, in January, 2014. The move was a global signal that Beijing seeks to discourage comsumers in the world's largest ivory market.
  • HONG KONG  Crates of illegal ivory valued at $5.3 million were displayed at a Hing King press conference in August, 2013. The seisure included rhino horns and leopard skins.
  • UNITED KINGDOM   Rangers of the Kenya's wilflife and forest services receive field training in the Nanyuki forests from Britain's 3rd Battalion parachuters in the use of hand signals while tracking poachers.
     

These destroyed elephant tusks were confiscated by governments from shipments smuggled in shipping containers from Africa, the harvest of the slaughter of Africa’s dwindling population of elephants.

Greater attention is now being directed at the source in Africa. Policy makers in Washington, D.C., have discovered that terrorists who de-stabilize African countries pay for their rebellions with the profits from selling the tusks of dead elephants.
 
More than a wildlife conservation problem

The killing of Africa’s elephants is a longstanding concern of wildlife conservationists. They are now joined by leaders in global law enforcement, economic development and better governance, says John Calvelli, an executive vice president of the Wildlife Conservation Society in New York.
 
Conservation and security officials describe the globe's new crime wave
Conservation and security officials describe the globe's new crime wavei
|| 0:00:00
...    
🔇
X

The reaction comes with the rapid growth of poaching and the entry of organized crime networks in the trafficking of ivory. 
 
This is just reaching an epidemic proportion that’s having long-term implications for the survival of the species,” says Calvcelli. “They’re also creating real areas of uncertainty and de-stabilization.
 
“So at the end of the day that the report came out, all these footprints are pointing in that same direction. There is a call for action coming from the African nations themselves. We need to be dealing with this issue.”
 
Washington’s decision to get tough on poachers and traffickers is triggered by the rapid growth of an illegal industry some estimate is now a $20-billion business.  
 
Brooke Darby, the U.S. deputy assistant secretary of state for international narcotics and law enforcement, says poaching is no longer viewed as just a wildlife conservation issue. “The U.S. government and many other governments around the world have been looking at wildlife trafficking as a conservation issue for a long period of time.
 
“But I think in the last few years,” Darby says, “driven by the high demand and the high prices for wildlife product as well as the low risk of detection and very minimal penalties, we’ve really seen an uptick in organized criminal groups and – to some extent – terrorist networks being drawn into the trade.”
 
From drugs and arms to chopsticks and tusks

Major criminal syndicates have added ivory to their portfolio of illegal trafficking in gold, guns and drugs. As a consequence, poaching is fast becoming a serious crime and a threat to the survival of wildlife.
 
Among the natural resources of Africa, an estimated 30,000 elephants were slaughtered illegally in 2012 - double the number killed five years before, and triple the estimates of 14 years ago.
 
The United States was the first country to sign the 1974 Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) outlawing the trade. But nothing stemmed the tide in poaching and trading of ivory tusks and rhino horns.
 
Nine months ago, President Barack Obama signed an executive order creating a Wildlife Trafficking Task Force. Among other measures, the order authorized $10 million worth of technical assistance to stop poaching in Kenya, South Africa and other sub-Saharan countries.
 
New funds and new enforcement ideas are part of the executive order. Even drones, once used strictly for the assassination leaders of al Qaeda in Yemen, are being proposed as aerial monitors of herds of forest elephants, locating carcasses, tracking poachers and traders.
 
“I think we have to look at all of these technologies to try to solve this problem,” says Calvelli. “The problem is bigger than just the usual approaches we have taken in the past. So we need to be looking at all different technologies and obviously the drone is one of the technologies that needs to be reviewed.” 
 
AK-47s paid for with tusks
 
In April, representatives of 46 countries gathered at the London Zoological Garden and signed a declaration to stop the illegal trade.
 
Two months ago, President Obama issued a national strategy declaring that wildlife trafficking “now threatens not only national and global wildlife resources but also national and global security.”

Darby says that some of what she calls “terrorist entities” are involved.  Many conservation organizations agree. Conservationists and development agencies have been struggling with poaching for years, writes Johan Bergenas in a recent Stimson Center report, Killing Animals, Buying Arms
 
“And as the issue of poaching and wildlife crime becomes part of the family, if you will, of transnational crime challenge in the region,” says Bergenas, “I think we can all benefit from looking at it as a defense and security perspective and for the conservation and development community and the defense and security community to find overlapping opportunities to initiate programs on the ground and at the policy level to leverage each other’s resources.”
 
The president’s task force pulls leaders in the departments of Justice, Interior and State together to decide the next steps. But Bergenas cautions that for many countries truly effective cooperation “will take a long time.”
 
Who changed U.S. poaching policy?
 
The U.S. contribution to anti-poaching is part of an overall $80 million global commitment strategy marshaled by The Clinton Global Initiative (CGI) laid out a three-pronged strategy: support Africa’s park rangers, stop the trafficking and tell consumers to stop buying ivory statues and jewelry. They have gathered $80 million in commitments from governments, foundations and others such as philanthropist Howard Buffett.
 
Calvelli gives former secretary of state Hillary Clinton credit for asking the office of the Director of National Intelligence (DNI) to determine if there was a crucial link between poaching and terrorism. The DNI confirmed that terrorist entities and rogue security personnel are poaching elephants and trading their ivory often in collusion with government officials in source countries.
 
“It’s pretty historic in one respect,” says Calvelli. “So many groups have come together in so short amount of time to deal with this issue. And in Secretary Clinton’s conversations with African leaders, you started to see that the call is really coming from the African leaders themselves. They were seeing the destruction of their natural heritage.”
 
This flurry of new activity could be the beginning of more effective enforcement against the international ivory and rhino horn trade, but some observers are concerned that new collaborative strategies will take too much time to implement. They fear that elephants and rhinos in the wild may not be able to wait that long.

You May Like

Multimedia Obama, Modi Announce Breakthrough on Nuclear Deal

Deal resolves differences over liability of suppliers to India in event of a nuclear accident, U.S. demands on tracking whereabouts of material supplied to country More

WHO's Late Efforts in Tackling Ebola Highlight Need for Reform

update Health experts debate measures to reform agency’s response to global public health emergencies in special one-day session on deadly outbreak More

One Tumultuous Year in Power for CAR's President

As sectarian violence raged across Central African Republic, interim President Catherine Samba-Panza has Herculean task: to end civil war and put country back on right track 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.
Worldwide Photo Workshops Empower Youthi
X
Julie Taboh
January 23, 2015 11:08 PM
Last September, 20 young adults from South Sudan took part in a National Geographic Photo Camp. They are among hundreds of students from around the world who have learned how to use a camera to tell the stories of the people in their communities through the powerful medium of photography. Three camp participants talked about their experiences recently on a visit to Washington. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video Worldwide Photo Workshops Empower Youth

Last September, 20 young adults from South Sudan took part in a National Geographic Photo Camp. They are among hundreds of students from around the world who have learned how to use a camera to tell the stories of the people in their communities through the powerful medium of photography. Three camp participants talked about their experiences recently on a visit to Washington. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video US, Japan Offer Lessons as Eurozone Launches Huge Stimulus

The Euro currency has fallen sharply after the European Central Bank announced a bigger-than-expected $67 billion-a-month quantitative easing program Thursday - commonly seen as a form of printing new money. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London on whether the move might rescue the eurozone economy -- and what lessons have been learned from similar programs around the world.
Video

Video Nigerian Elections Pose Concern of Potential Conflict in 'Middle Belt'

Nigeria’s north-central state of Kaduna has long been the site of fighting between Muslims and Christians as well as between people of different ethnic groups. As the February elections approach, community and religious leaders are making plans they hope will keep the streets calm after results are announced. Chris Stein reports from the state capital, Kaduna.
Video

Video As Viewership Drops, Obama Puts His Message on YouTube

Ratings reports show President Obama’s State of the Union address this week drew the lowest number of viewers for this annual speech in 15 years. White House officials anticipated this, and the president has decided to take a non-traditional approach to getting his message out. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video S. Korean Businesses Want to End Trade Restrictions With North

Business leaders in South Korea are calling for President Park Geun-hye to ease trade restrictions with North Korea that were put in place in 2010 after the sinking of a South Korean warship.Pro-business groups argue that expanding trade and investment is not only good for business, it is also good for long-term regional peace and security. VOA’s Brian Padden reports.
Video

Video US Marching Bands Grow Into a Show of Their Own

The 2014 Super Bowl halftime show was the most-watched in history - attracting an estimated 115 million viewers. That event featured pop star Bruno Mars. But the halftime show tradition started with marching bands, which still dominate the entertainment at U.S. high school and college American football games. But as Enming Liu reports in this story narrated by Adrianna Zhang, marching bands have grown into a show of their own.
Video

Video Secular, Religious Kurds Face Off in Southeast Turkey

Turkey’s predominantly Kurdish southeast has been rocked by violence between religious and secular Kurds. Dorian Jones reports on the reasons behind the stand-off from the region's main city of Diyarbakir, which suffered the bloodiest fighting.
Video

Video Kenya: Misuse of Antibiotics Leading to Resistance by Immune System

In Kenya, the rise of drug resistant bacteria could reverse the gains made by medical science over diseases that were once treatable. Kenyans could be at risk of fatalities as a result if the power in antibiotics is not preserved. Lenny Ruvaga has more on the story from Nairobi.
Video

Video Solar-Powered Plane Getting Ready to Circumnavigate Globe

Pilots of the solar plane that already set records flying without a drop of fuel are close to making their first attempt to fly the craft around the globe. They plan to do it in 25 flying days over a five month period. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video How Experts Decide Ethiopia Has the Best Coffee

Ethiopia’s coffee has been ranked as the best in the world by an international group of coffee connoisseurs. Not surprisingly, coffee is a top export for the country. But at home it is a source of pride. Marthe van der Wolf in Addis Ababa decided to find out what makes the bean and brew so special and how experts make their determinations.
Video

Video Yazidi Refugees at Center of Political Fight Between Turkey, Kurds

The treatment of thousands of Yazidis refugees who fled to Turkey to escape attacks by Islamic State militants has become the center of a dispute between the Turkish government and the country's pro-Kurdish movement. VOA's Dorian Jones reports.
Video

Video World’s Richest 1% Forecast to Own More Than Half of Global Wealth

The combined wealth of the world's richest 1 percent will overtake that of the remaining 99 percent at some point in 2016, according to the anti-poverty charity Oxfam. Campaigners are demanding that policymakers take action to address the widening gap between the ‘haves’ and the ‘have nots’, as Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More

All About America

AppleAndroid