The Wildlife Crime Story - from Africa to Asia:
Governments like Cameroon are becoming increasingly alarmed by the use of wildlife trafficking as a source of funding for insurgents. Rebel groups, drug syndicates and even terrorist networks have seen an opportunity to profit from what has until now been a low risk, high reward criminal enterprise. Populations of rare animals like elephants, tigers and rhinos are plummeting as a result.
The products sourced from this bloody business are nearly unrecognizable on the other end of the trade chain where they are being sold in up-scale, air conditioned Asian boutiques. Intricate carvings, jewelry and medical tonics made from endangered species are becoming more and more popular in places like China, Thailand and Vietnam. Economic success has thrust swaths of people in to the middle class, and many have come with the desire to possess things that used to be out of reach to all but the highest elites. Although they are illegal, they are easily obtainable by anyone with internet access and a big enough bank account.
Consumers of illegal wildlife products may not know that their money is being used by militias to purchase guns and bribe government officials. Militias like the one run by a man called 'Morgan' who led an attack on a wildlife refuge in Democratic Republic of the Congo in June. Morgan's crew shot dead seven people and took others as hostages and sex slaves.
The destruction brought about by illegal wildlife trade has its roots in Asian demand. But poaching is able to thrive in places like Central Africa because governance is weak and there are few economic opportunities. This paradox has led to government paralysis. Source and demand countries are simply blaming each other for the scale of the problem rather than working together on solutions, according to the findings of a forthcoming study commissioned by conservation group WWF.
The report, Fighting illicit wildlife trafficking: A consultation with governments, can be found at www.panda.org/wildlifecrime
Gabon - Poached Ivory Burn & Anti-Poaching PatrolToday - 27.06.2012 - the President of Gabon attended the burning of the country's entire stockpile of seized illegally poached ivory.
WWF-Canon photographer James Morgan was there for us at the burn and also spent a few days on an anti-poaching patrol with the Parcs Gabon Eco guards. The work of anti poaching patrol officers trying to halt the slaughter of elephants and the illegal trade in ivory can be dangerous. Armed poachers kill each elephant they take a tusk from and are therefore often equipped to resist arrest.