By Donald Kaberuka, Jim Leape
Wildlife crime not only destroys our vital natural heritage, but it is also a crime against the stability and prosperity of nations and a crime that puts human lives at risk. Elephants and rhinos are targeted in Africa, but their tusks and horns are bought across the world. This means that countries on both ends of the market must get serious about tackling wildlife poaching and illegal trade, for the good of their economies and natural wealth alike.
Poachers and illegal traders in endangered wildlife products are fast robbing us all of our most iconic animals. As many as 30,000 African elephants have been killed in the past year alone - slaughtered to fuel the rampant illegal ivory trade in markets where ivory is coveted for trinkets and status symbols. Rhinos, too, are under unprecedented pressure. Among the world's most endangered species, they are brutally killed for their horns, which are traded for use in medicines in far-off lands. Last year a record 668 South African rhinos were killed by poachers.
This is tragic but wildlife crime is actually about much more than wildlife.
The illegal international trade in ivory and other wildlife products is organised crime on a massive scale, pulling in up to $10 billion every year. Violent gangs armed with AK-47s raid Africa's forests, are threatening communities, undermining local economies, and destabilising governments.
Criminal syndicates, drug traffickers, armed militant groups and terrorist organisations use profits from illicit wildlife trafficking to acquire arms, finance operations and threaten national and regional security. More....