By David Malingha Doya
The illicit trade of wildlife worth as much as $213 billion a year that’s partly funding anti-state militias needs a stronger coordinated response, United Nations Environment Programme Executive Director Achim Steiner said.
“The illegal trade in natural resources is depriving developing economies of billions of dollars in lost revenue and lost development opportunities, while benefiting a relatively small criminal fraternity,” Steiner said in a report released today titled “The Environmental Crime Crisis.”
Illegal logging, worth as much as $100 billion worldwide a year, poses one of the biggest threats, damaging forests and generating incomes that “dwarf” other types of wildlife crimes, according to the report.
Militias in the Democratic Republic of Congo and Somalia’s al-Qaeda-linked al-Shabaab are among groups that illegally tax charcoal shipments. The total value of that unregulated trade in conflict-hit African nations alone is estimated at as much as $289 million a year, UNEP said.
Elephant poaching provides income for militants in African nations including Congo and the Central African Republic. The illegal trade in ivory is a key source of revenue for the Lord’s Resistance Army which operates around Congo, Central African Republic and South Sudan, while the Janjaweed based in Sudan along with other “horse gangs” in that country, Chad and Niger also benefit from the sales.
Rhinos are killed for their horn mostly in Zimbabwe and South Africa, which host the biggest remaining populations, UNEP said. Rhino horns worth as much as $192 million were sold on illegal markets last year, according to the report.
As many as 25,000 elephants may be killed in Africa every year for their tusks, leading the forest elephant population on the continent to fall by about 62 percent from 2002 to 2011 to an estimated 420,000 to 650,000, UNEP said. Buyers in Asia have paid a street value of as much as $188 million for raw ivory shipped from Africa, according to the report, which didn’t specify a time period.
Nations should better coordinate their efforts to crack down on environmental crimes, strengthen law enforcement and judicial systems and increase funding for conservation programs to protect endangered animals, UNEP said.