By Darryl Fears
The effort is being helped by former secretary of state Hillary Rodham Clinton, who recently unveiled a three-year, $80 million joint project with nonprofit groups and African nations to end elephant poaching, including setting up new wildlife parks.
But the anti-poaching endeavors are being measured against the grinding poverty that drives Africans to risk their lives to kill elephants and rhinos for their ivory and horns, some wildlife conservationists say.
An international panel that governs wildlife trading said that illegal trafficking has at least doubled since 2007, even though it banned the sale of ivory and horns years ago. That panel, the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES), has made little headway in lowering the demand for the artifacts on the black market, which thrives in Asia, where ornately carved tusks are coveted and some believe that a sprinkle of rhino horn helps fight cancer.
Although conservationists view the new U.S. action as not going far enough, they welcomed it as a step forward.
“We are getting to the point of no return,” said Richard G. Ruggiero, a former nongovernment conservationist who is now the Africa branch chief of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Division of International Conservation.
“We lacked political will in the U.S., overseas and in consumer nations such as China,” he said. “Without political will, there’s nothing.”
Adding to the pressure to act is growing evidence that terrorist groups have entered the black market, paying poachers to kill the animals and selling their horns and ivory at a premium to middlemen in the United States and Asia to fund operations such as the deadly Sept. 21 attack on a Kenyan shopping mall by the Somali group al-Shabab, a wing of al-Qaeda. More....