By Adira Levine
As the international financial community implements electronic regulatory measures to identify and stymie terror financing, a funding source for African terrorism has emerged that is far less detectable by computerized systems: elephant and rhino poaching.
Armed rebel groups and government militias have cashed into the lucrative profits ivory yields in worldwide markets, particularly in Asia. Although the 1989 Convention on International Trade of Endangered Species prohibits the ivory trade, the poaching of elephants and rhinos in Africa funds international terrorism and risks driving the animals to extinction.
According to the World Wildlife Fund, poachers kill an estimated 30,000 elephants every year for their ivory tusks. Armed poachers encircle and shoot animals from helicopters as forces on the ground approach to cut off the ivory and leave the carcasses to rot. Much of the activity occurs in Central Africa, where regions such as Congo’s Garamba National Park are home to concentrated elephant populations. African governments, often battling corruption and lacking strong local infrastructure, have struggled to combat the practice. In some countries, such as Congo and Uganda, government armies themselves perpetrate poaching activities.
In addition to government militias, African rebel groups are also frequent poachers, using the profits to acquire weapons and ammunition. The Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA), notorious for abducting children, raping women, and pillaging communities, uses poaching profits to support warlord Joseph Kony. Darfur’s Janjaweed and Somalia’s Al-Shabaab, the latter of which is a branch of Al-Qaeda, also conduct some of the most active rebel poaching activity. These groups have contributed to genocide, violence, and instability within Africa, as well as support for terrorism beyond the continent. More....