By Joseph Ogwal
Today, terrorism and global economic crisis are seen as contemporary forces which keep the world awake. As scholars and policy makers attempt to find answers to them, another matter of public interest is going unnoticed. The rapid decimation of African elephants and rhinoceros by organised criminal gangs has been a menace for conservationists.
It is currently estimated that wild population of elephants in Africa has declined from 1.3 million (1987) to less than 600,000 (to date) with poaching following conflict hotspots such as war zones or areas with poor governance.
Last month alone, poachers used cyanide to kill 300 elephants in Hwange reserve in Zimbabwe. East Africa is currently considered a major source of illegal Ivory. The demand for Ivory is linked to spiritual beliefs among Asians and some Christians, who use them for various emotional needs.
One common factor underlying killings of elephants is the ready market for trophies offered by consumers in Asia (mainly China and Thailand) and the desire by Africans to grow rich. It’s reported that 1kg of rhinoceros horns is worth $20,000. The same applies to ivory, which cost about $18,000 a pair.
With such high stakes, poachers have nothing to stop them despite the existence of legal mechanisms on illegal hunting and trade in wildlife trophies. In South Africa, rhino poachers are currently using advanced weaponry and military skills to hunt and also target enforcement officials.
This heightens the level of risk involved in wildlife protection, but also points to the benefits envisaged by perpetrators who are cross-cultural. It further heightens fears that outlaws may use such avenues to finance subversive activities. Time and again questions will be asked if the organised criminal gangs rampaging on elephants do not share the same ideology as extremists killing people without mercy. More....