By Johan Bergenas, Rachel Stohl, Ochieng Adala
President Obama and former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton recently stepped up the fight against poachers, who kill tens of thousands of animals worldwide every year, selling their body parts for enormous profits. As well as bringing much needed political focus to the issue, their efforts include more resources to train and equip anti-poaching forces.
This attention is part of a new understanding that poachers pose a threat not only to endangered species, but to American national security. A portion of the profits from poaching is funneled to terrorist groups, including Al Shabab, based in Somalia, and the Lord’s Resistance Army, which has killed more than 3,000 people and displaced another 400,000 in Central Africa in recent years.
Despite anti-poaching efforts across the developing world, the illegal killing of wild animals continues: the Wildlife Conservation Society says that 35,000 African elephants were killed illegally last year, and that the number of elephants on the continent has fallen to only 420,000, from 1.2 million in 1980.
Although it is impossible to know for sure how much money flows to terrorists from poaching, some reports suggest that the monthly profit for Al Shabab from the illegal ivory trade alone is $200,000 to $600,000. In the case of the Lord’s Resistance Army, witnesses report that Joseph Kony, the group’s leader, ordered the shooting of elephants in order to trade their tusks for arms, cash, food and medical supplies.
The poaching-terrorist link is not new: in 1998 a Somali warlord tied to poachers reportedly provided safe haven to operatives of Al Qaeda responsible for the bombings of the American Embassies in Kenya and Tanzania, which killed hundreds of people. More....