By Chris Tackett
The recent terrorist attack in Kenya may not seem like a story about sustainability or the environment, but in fact there is a disturbing connection between the deadly attack at the Westgate mall in Nairobi, which has left at least 68 dead and more than 150 injured and the illegal ivory trade that fuels poaching of elephants, rhinos and other wildlife.
Two weeks ago, I wrote about the United States taking more action in the fight against illegal wildlife trafficking. In July, President Obama issued an executive order establishing a cabinet-level Task Force on Wildlife Trafficking, which has this month formed an advisory council including cabinet members, as well as executives from the major anti-trafficking and wildlife conservation organizations. The US has also announced plans to destroy its 25-year-old stockpile of seized ivory to send a message to the world about crisis of the ivory trade.
All of this is being done, not simply to preserve the lives and ecosystem benefits of rhinos and elephants, but also because the United States now sees wildlife trafficking as national security threat. Why? Because poaching and illegal wildlife trafficking is a major source of funding for terrorist groups, including Al-Shabaab, the al-Qaeda-backed Somali terror group responsible for Saturday's attack in the Nairobi mall.
TIME magazine's Ishaan Tharoor explains the recent history of Al-Shabaab:
"The group, whose name means the Youth in Arabic, was once the militant youth wing of a coalition of Islamist forces that held sway in parts of Somalia more than half a decade ago. The country has had no real functional central government for over two decades, and the Islamists, for a time, provided a veneer of security and stability despite the harshness of the Shari‘a they sought to impose. That control slipped following a series of offensives spearheaded by the African Union, beginning with an Ethiopian-led invasion in 2006."
Dana Liebelson at Mother Jones notes that in addition to their power slipping in recent years, some sources of Al Shabaab's funding have been disrupted: More....