How al-Shabaab controls the ivory tradeJanuary 20, 2014
Marauders in eastern Kenya poach for ivory. The ivory is bought by brokers who arrange for transport of the merchandise with al-Shabaab through Somalia. Al-Shabaab exports the ivory from the Somali coast to the illicit world market.
Inter Press Service reports (h/t El Grillo):
…In 2012 and 2013 alone, nearly 60,000 elephants and over 1,600 rhinos were illegally killed for their tusks.
The driving force behind this practice is clearly the significant money that can still be made from these products. According to expert estimates, a rhino horn is worth 50,000 dollars per pound on the black market, more than the value of gold or platinum.
This, activists say, makes poaching very hard to resist.
“Most people know that this is wrong, but you need to make a distinction between poacher and poacher,” Andrea Crosta, the executive director of Elephant Action League (EAL), a U.S.-based group that fights poaching and illegal trafficking, told IPS.
“On one end, you have the poor local tribesman with no job who just needs the money. On the other, you have the organised criminal gangs, with weapons and money, who are able to bribe rangers and get their information.”
Crosta says a pair of tusks can be worth a few years’ salary in many African countries.
“To someone with no job and a large family to feed, that’s a lot of money,” he says. “They know it’s wrong, but the temptation is just too strong.”
Together with a team of EAL members, Crosta spent much of 2010 to 2012 investigating poaching in East Africa. According to their findings, large quantities of ivory were getting into Somalia in a systematic, organised way.
Later, they discovered this process was being run by Al-Shabaab.
“We were undercover, pretending to be researchers and zoologists, and that way we were able to speak with small and big traders, poachers and middlemen,” Crosta, who is currently based in the Netherlands, told IPS.
His team was able to unveil an undercover trafficking system that saw between one and three tonnes of ivory getting into Somalia, facilitated by Al-Shabaab, every month…
The Elephant Action League has previously reported that, “Shabaab has been actively buying and selling ivory as a means of funding their militant operations,” and that Kenyan ivory brokers prefer working with al-Shabaab middlemen because of their organizational skills and efficiency. Moreover, “the terrorist group pays better than average prices (U.S. $200 per kilogram in 2011-2012), making them desirable buyers of illicit ivory from small-time brokers.”