Governments around the world should work with each other, local residents and the private sector to reduce poaching and wildlife crimes that are funnelling an estimated $19 billion annually to terrorists and other criminals, a Stimson Center report issued today recommends.
The report – based on projects Stimson is running in East Africa – says that “wildlife crime is no longer only a challenge to conservation, biodiversity and development. Poaching is – just as the illegal trade in arms, drugs and counterfeit goods – a serious threat to national and international security and economic development.”
The Stimson study is titled “Killing Animals, Buying Arms: Setting the Stage for Collaborative Solutions to Poaching + Wildlife Crime.” It recommends:
Launching programs in partnership with regional actors against poaching and other wildlife crime, along with improved coordination of U.S. and international security and development assistance.
Improving cooperation and coordination between government agencies and groups focused on conservation, development and security to fight poaching and wildlife crime. “New partnerships can and should emerge, and resources and know-how can be leveraged within and between governments as defense and homeland security departments, environmental departments, aid organizations, law enforcement agencies and other organizations find unchartered common ground,” the report says.
Using advanced statistical methods and cutting-edge data analysis to map the illicit trade in animal parts worldwide. This would help governments and organizations work together across borders to better understand how poachers operate, making it easier to put the wildlife criminals out of business.
Increasing work with private sector technology firms to find new and innovative approaches to protect wildlife – including sensors, radars, drones and better training for park and security officials.
The study was written by Johan Bergenas, deputy director of the Managing Across Boundaries Initiative at Stimson. Bergenas has conducted research in Kenya and is involved in an ongoing pilot project at the Ngulia Rhino Sanctuary in Tsavo West National Park in partnership with the Kenya Wildlife Service, Africa Peace Forum (a local nongovernmental organization), technical experts and other public and private stakeholders. The pilot project is part of a broader regional border security and management initiative that Stimson has worked on since 2010.
Forty percent of the funding for various terrorist operations is reportedly obtained through participation in the global illicit wildlife trade and the illegal wildlife trade is larger than the illicit trafficking of small arms, diamonds, gold and oil.
The most valuable poaching victims are elephants and rhinos that roam Africa in rapidly decreasing numbers. For example, the number of black rhinos in Kenya has fallen from about 20,000 in the 1970s to approximately 650 today.
Poachers continue their illegal killing because it is highly profitable. Elephant tusks and rhino horns are sold at extraordinary prices – $50,000 a pound for rhino horns on the black market. The tusks and horns are used as ingredients in traditional medicinal products and to make expensive handicrafts and consumer goods.
On Friday (Jan. 10) from 9 a.m. to 11:30 a.m., Stimson and the British Embassy in Washington will host an event on poaching and wildlife crime featuring retired Army Gen. Carter Ham. Other speakers include Bergenas, representatives from the World Bank, the United Kingdom government and other government and nongovernmental experts. The event announcement and information on how to RSVP can be found here.
The event aims to set the stage for the forthcoming high-level international London Summit on the Illegal Wildlife Trade taking place Feb. 12-13.