Illegal Wildlife Trafficking A Threat To National Security
This is because trafficking endangered species and their parts seem to profit terrorist cells in unstable African nations and fund their activities. Profits from illegal wildlife trade reportedly reach up to $19 billion , benefiting global criminal enterprises.
WWF has earlier released a Wildlife Crime Scorecard grading countries with illicit wildlife trade activities taking place in their territories. Elephants, rhinos, tigers and lions are being poached for their parts used in traditional medicine, luxury items, and objects of status symbols.
The Guardian reports that powdered rhino horn sells for $100,000 per kilo, while an average horn fetches $600,000 in parts of Southeast Asia where it is seen as a sign of affluence and wealth. Tigers, a flagship species for conservation, are continuously being targeted for their fur, hide, and bones. Part of the market for tiger body parts is traditional Asian medicine, where tiger bones are deemed as a potent ingredient. As tigers are increasingly being hunted in the wild, some illegally capture tigers and hold them in breeding enclosures By raising tigers themselves, illegal wildlife traders hope to have a stable supply of these endangered animals for their profit. Testifying to the dangerously decreasing population of tigers, poachers are also targeting lions and raising them illegally.
The past years have seen an increase in attacks against elephants as well. In 2011 alone, hundreds of elephants were targeted and slaughtered in Cameroon’s own Bouba Ndjida national park itself. Poachers often kill the animals for their ivory tusks alone and leave the entire carcasses behind, a testimony of the creatures’ lives lost not to any form of necessity but to greed.
Government efforts in terms of technology, resources, and organization are being outgunned by crime syndicates, says WWF president Carter Roberts. Populations of these endangered species are being lost before the eyes of those who are trying to save them because of failed efforts. WWF aims to spur UN ambassadors to greater action and efforts against illegal wildlife trafficking. In the US, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton labeled illegal wildlife trafficking as a national security threat from its status as a conservation issue. This upgrade was due in part to illegal wildlife trade’s threatening government control and national border safety.
Powerful crime syndicates are now using helicopters, sophisticated weapons and hunting equipment such as night vision goggles to get to the animals, posing threats to human lives as well. Secretary of state Clinton said that organized, heavily armed trafficking gangs are overpowering and overwhelming local authorities and village communities.
Support for conservation efforts like Google’s awarding WWF $5 million in grant to track poachers through aerial drones are very helpful. But these can not compensate for the lack of political will in countries that are continuously being involved in illegal wildlife trafficking activities. As deadly serious and intentional crime syndicates are in the business of illegal wildlife trade, it is hoped that governments with illegal trafficking activities in their territories will be as serious and intentional as well in holding up their side and taking a stand for these endangered species.
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