By Gwynn Guilford
Hong Kong customs officials just confiscated a Nigerian shipment of 1,120 elephant tusks—part of a haul of rhino horns and leopard pelts that totaled around $5.3 million in value. In July, HK customs seized 1,148 tusks worth $2.3 million in a shipment from Togo, and confiscated another 780 tusks worth $1.14 million back in January.
Those three shipments alone add up to at least 1,525 dead elephants—scary, considering as few as 400,000 elephants are left on the planet. Since ivory is traded illegally, the best way to capture poaching trends is to look at customs seizures, which suggest a sharp recent rise in killings:
[graphics from National Geographic Magazine\
Stopping this slaughter might sound like the cause of people who might flour-bomb Kim Kardashian. But it’s also an urgent global security priority.
+ A recent United Nations report on security in Central Africa highlighted elephant poaching as “an important source of funding for armed groups” (pdf), including the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA), the militant guerrilla group led by the notorious Joseph Kony. Other beneficiaries of the tusk trade include al Qaeda’s al-Shabab arm in Somalia and the Janjaweed in Sudan.
It’s not just a one-way business. More....