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Original Source: Born Free USA

It has been a quarter century since Parties to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) placed all African elephants on Appendix I, thus eliminating commercial trade in elephant ivory. This uniform global prohibition on ivory commercialisation demonstrably reduced elephant poaching, helped elephant populations to stabilise, dried up some ivory markets, and essentially made it taboo to acquire elephant ivory.

Since then, some southern African countries, namely Botswana, Namibia, South Africa, and Zimbabwe, have relentlessly pursued the reopening of the ivory trade. After exerting significant political pressure, they have succeeded in securing sales of stockpiled ivory to China and Japan. This inexplicable backpedal on the international ivory trade ban has stimulated markets, demand, and ultimately elephant poaching, to supply the trade.

Continent-wide look at violent incidents mapped over elephant ranges.
Continent-wide look at violent incidents mapped over elephant ranges.

In recent years it has been revealed that significant criminal syndicates and organised terrorist gangs have engaged in elephant poaching to acquire ivory, which they sell for arms to ply their deadly activities. Born Free USA, seeking an accurate and complete picture of the depths of this nefarious activity, commissioned C4ADS and its expert defense analysts to examine the military, national security, and localised conflict aspects of elephant poaching and the ivory trade to reveal, in detail, the threats to elephants across Africa. Ivory’s Curse: The Militarization and Professionalization of Poaching in Africa was released April 21, and its findings are truly alarming.

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From Sudan, government-allied militias complicit in the Darfur genocide fund their operations by poaching elephants hundreds of miles outside North Sudan’s borders.

Three major conflict actors in the news today moving into a vulnerable set of elephant habitats.
Three major conflict actors moving into a vulnerable set of elephant habitats.
Ammo collected from 4 elephant kill sites, all blamed on the Sudanese and separated by hundreds of miles, all match to the types of ammunition prevalent in North Sudan's armories.
Ammo collected from 4 elephant kill sites, all blamed on the Sudanese and separated by hundreds of miles, all match to the types of ammunition prevalent in North Sudan’s armories.

In the Democratic Republic of the Congo, state security forces patronise the very rebels they are supposed to fight, providing them with weapons and support in exchange for ivory.

Shows the network of a Congolese general who used to fund and arm militants to kill elephants for ivory.
Shows the network of a Congolese general who used to fund and arm militants to kill elephants for ivory.

Zimbabwean political elites, including those under international sanction, are seising wildlife spaces that either are, or are likely to soon be, used as covers for poaching operations.

In East Africa, al-Shabaab and Somali criminal networks are profiting off of Kenyan elephants killed by poachers using weapons leaked from local security forces.

Kenya is not often thought of as a conflict zone, but there is significant insecurity, displacement, and violence around its core elephant ranges.
Kenya is not often thought of as a conflict zone, but there is significant insecurity, displacement, and violence around its core elephant ranges.

Mozambican organised crime has militarised and consolidated to the extent that it is willing to battle the South African army and well-trained ranger forces for rhino horn.

In Gabon and the Republic of Congo, ill-regulated forest exploitation is bringing East Asian migrant laborers, and East Asian organised crime, into contact with Central Africa’s last elephants.

Expansion of roads and logging roads into and around the two major elephant habitats in Republic of Congo and Gabon.
Expansion of roads and logging roads into and around the two major elephant habitats in Republic of Congo and Gabon.
Chinese logging concessions mapped next to national parks in Gabon and Republic of Congo – high risk for poaching.
Chinese logging concessions mapped next to national parks in Gabon and Republic of Congo – high risk for poaching.

In Tanzania, political elites have aided the industrial-scale depletion of East Africa’s largest elephant population.

Born Free USA will use this significant, timely, and shocking report to encourage legislators, conservation authorities, and defense agencies to focus their attention, resources, and efforts on the elephant poaching hotspots identified, and exert appropriate pressure at all levels to stop the bloody ivory trade.

The scourge of elephant poaching has reached crisis, historically shocking, levels, with an estimated 35 000 to 50 000 elephants poached per year. As a result, certain populations of African elephants are now vulnerable to extinction and may not withstand these poaching thresholds much longer. And, when these elephants disappear, if ivory markets are not eliminated, demand will lead poaching operations further south, attacking the southern African elephant populations, as well.

The below video shows some shocking footage of the illegal trade in African ivory for the documentary Pembe Ya Ndovu. WARNING: Graphic Footage (Credit: Steve Taylor, Green Heart Films).

httpv://youtu.be/4SUPpQi_Tc8

Immediate, robust, and unequivocal action is required if we are to beat back the elephant murderers and ivory profiteers. The brutality of elephant poaching — entire families gunned down, individual animals’ faces sawed in two to extract the coveted ivory tusks — should be enough to persuade a global crackdown on the ivory trade. But, the Born Free USA-commissioned Ivory’s Curse adds substantial firepower to the argument, and should end the debate. This report should convince anyone who cares about elephants — or the people who are similarly subjected to violence and bloodshed — that the bloody ivory trade must end, once and for all.

To read Born Free USA’s full report click here.

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