February 03, 2014
Break the link between terrorism funding and poaching
There is a new threat in the terrorist hotbed of Africa, and the U.S. military can do much more to combat it. Poaching of endangered elephants and rhinos has become a conservation crisis, and profits from wildlife crimes are filling the coffers of terrorist organizations. The twin crises should be cause for alarm for military leaders, not just conservation groups. They need to start working together before it is too late.
In the past two years, about 60,000 elephants and more than 1,600 rhinos have been slaughtered by poachers, according to reports from the Wildlife Conservation Society, the International Union for Conservation of Nature and others. About a thousand park rangers have died in the past decade defending the animals.
Illegal wildlife trade generates an estimated $19 billion a year - more than the illicit trafficking of small arms, diamonds, gold or oil. A July Congressional Research Service report found that a rhino horn is worth more than $50,000 per kilogram on the black market - more than gold or platinum. Sadly, poaching elephants and rhinos in Africa is easy money for terrorists, and they are cashing in.