The shopping mall massacre perpetrated in Kenya by Islamist fanatics has shone a spotlight on their grotesquely brutal method of financing terror: They slaughter elephants to sell tusk ivory to a ravenous underground market.
Al-Shabaab, the Al Qaeda-associated zealots behind the Westgate Mall bloodbath, is heavily invested, along with other African terror groups, in the continent’s booming ivory business.
Despite a 1989 pact banning international ivory sales, Shabaab is estimated to pay as much as 40% of the cost of its army of 5,000 through the murder of elephants in ways that match the barbarity they have offered their human victims.
Machine gun-armed hunters gun down calves to goad older elephants into trying to protect the young. Then the hunters shoot down the mature animals and behead them, often while the noble creatures are still alive and suffering, to remove their tusks.
A treaty that banned all international ivory trade in 1989 added a loophole in 2008, allowing for the sale of domestic ivory in China and elsewhere in the Far East, where there’s vast demand for it and wholesale prices for the “white gold of jihad” have skyrocketed, from about $150 a kilogram in 2008 to over $5,000 last year.
At those prices, few sellers or buyers care much where the ivory really comes from.
Somali poachers make considerably less, but at $200 a kilogram, an elephant can still net $6,000 or more — a fortune in a country with an average annual income of $107. More....