By Daniel Wesangula
In May 2007, three Kenya Wildlife Service rangers died at the hands of Somali bandits in a pre-dawn shoot-out. The gang of poachers was crossing the Tana River on their way to Tsavo East National Park. The incursion was halted, but the eventual cost in human life from this emerging deadly trend was to be massive.
Six years later, an 18-month investigation by South African environmental groups Maisha Consulting and Elephant Action League in the involvement of Al Shabaab on trafficking ivory through Kenya established that this trade could be supplying up to 40 per cent of the funds needed to keep the merchants of terror in business.
“The deadly path of conflict ivory starts with the slaughter of innocent animals and ends in the slaughter of innocent people. It is a source of funding for terrorist organisations that transcends cruelty. It is the ‘white gold’ for African jihad; white for its colour and gold for its value,” Andrea Crosta the Executive Director and Co-Founder of the South African independent conservation organisation Elephant Action League (EAL) told The Standard on Sunday.
A parallel can be drawn between Kenya’s incursion into Somalia and increased poaching incidents within the country. With every inch of ground gained by the Kenya Defence Forces, a mile is lost back home in the never-ending war of protecting the country’s wildlife.
“Surrounded by porous borders, Kenya has long been a transit point for illegal ivory. The KWS is doing a commendable job but in an attempt to crack down on this trade, dealers looking for fast money and an easier market have turned to a new player in the game – Al Shabaab,” Crosta said.
“This reality is too close to home to pass as a mere coincidence,” Crosta said. Although poaching has been ongoing for decades, the cutting off of Al Shabaab’s income streams has forced them to look elsewhere for funding. More....