By Aislinn Laing
The United States has announced the first ever cash reward for information leading to the smashing of an Asian wildlife trafficking gang alleged to be one of the main drivers behind poaching in Africa.
The Laos-based Xaysavang Network is said by the US government to have been linked to the slaughter of animals including rhinos and elephants in South Africa and Mozambique, and the trading of their horns and tusks in China, Thailand and Vietnam.
John Kerry, the US Secretary of State, said billions of dollars made in wildlife trafficking each year were being pumped into other illegal activities such as drug, arms and human trafficking.
"The involvement of sophisticated transnational criminal organisations in wildlife trafficking perpetuates corruption (and) threatens the rule of law and border security in fragile regions," Mr Kerry said in a statement.
On Thursday, the US crushed its entire stockpile of ivory built up over 25 years. The six-ton cache, worth around £9 million, was destroyed in the presence of conservation groups, federal law enforcement agencies and officials from the US Fish and Wildlife Service at a warehouse in Colorado.
The operation was a first for the United States but stockpile destructions have also occurred in the Philippines, Kenya and Gabon.
Brooke Darby, the Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs, said the mass destruction was designed to show there was "no legitimate use" for elephant or rhino products. "It has no place in our cultures and we wanted to make sure that we got that message out and we wanted to also encourage other countries to take similar action to destroy their stockpiles of ivory," she said. More....