By Andrew C. Revkin
Jeffrey Gettleman (with video reporting by Ben Solomon and photographs by Tyler Hicks) has launched an important series of articles exploring the interrelationship of Africa’s destabilizing insurgencies and the recent surge in elephant poaching. The driving force, of course, is the high value of the resulting caches of illicit ivory in China.
Here’s the nut of part one, “Elephants Dying in Epic Frenzy as Ivory Fuels Wars and Profits,” which focuses on a park in the Democratic Republic of Congo:
"Africa is in the midst of an epic elephant slaughter. Conservation groups say poachers are wiping out tens of thousands of elephants a year, more than at any time in the previous two decades, with the underground ivory trade becoming increasingly militarized.
"Like blood diamonds from Sierra Leone or plundered minerals from Congo, ivory, it seems, is the latest conflict resource in Africa, dragged out of remote battle zones, easily converted into cash and now fueling conflicts across the continent.
"Some of Africa’s most notorious armed groups, including the Lord’s Resistance Army, the Shabab and Darfur’s janjaweed, are hunting down elephants and using the tusks to buy weapons and sustain their mayhem. Organized crime syndicates are linking up with them to move the ivory around the world, exploiting turbulent states, porous borders and corrupt officials from sub-Saharan Africa to China, law enforcement officials say.
"But it is not just outlaws cashing in. Members of some of the African armies that the American government trains and supports with millions of taxpayer dollars — like the Ugandan military, the Congolese Army and newly independent South Sudan’s military — have been implicated in poaching elephants and dealing in ivory."
Please read the rest and send this article around, particularly to people with influence in China. For more on the ivory pipeline between loosely governed African nations and China, look back at Alex Shoumatoff’s piercing reporting for Vanity Fair in “Agony and Ivory.” I was glad to find out that his article was republished late last year in the Chinese edition of GQ. As Shoumatoff noted, that is “just the audience” that needs to be reached. Video.