Illegal wildlife trade is fueling wars in Africa

Anyone read the current Newsweek? I am stunned. Obama is about to become the new USA president but there’s more in there about the illegal wildlife trade than the USA election!

After reading the article three times I realize that things are much worse than I imagined. The article reveals that the Sudanese Janjaweed responsible for crimes against humanity in Darfur, are financed by the ivory trade. I’m shocked, appalled and deeply saddened. It’s incomprehensible what these people are doing, at first.

The more I think about it, this revelation that the illegal wildlife trade is financing militias and warlords shouldn’t surprise me. I’ve been aware for some time that the illegal trade in wildlife is valued second only to arms. And I feel somewhat vindicated, in a past life I fought for the ban on ivory trade because I knew that it was driving a demand that could not be sustained by Africa’s and Asia’s elephants. The trade had to be stopped and working for the Kenyan government we were determined to do our damnest. But we were up against others who felt equally vehemently that wildlife had to ‘pay to stay’ – that was Robert Mugabe’s mantra (the Convention on Illegal trade in Endagered Species of wild Flora and Fauna (CITES) was hosted by Zimbabwe in Harare Zimbabwe in 1989).

That year, and every one subsequently, we came across all sorts of people, corrupt Japanese ivory dealers, foreign buyers, African traders, European and Americans who professed to be experts, and who would put us Africans down with comments like ‘admit it Paula, you are in under your head’. To their own detriment it only strengthened my resolve,..I was hard and cold. But not everyone can stand up to that sort of intimidation.


In a spectacular act of bravery, Kenya burned her  massive ivory stockpile in 1989 to demonstrate that the value in those illegally acquired tusks had to be destroyed. If South Africa serious that the culling will not contribute to the sales of ivory they would  burn their ivory too.

I sensed we were going to lose ground when the greed from African countries began to raise it’s ugly head. I left that scene a few years ago, disillusioned with the politics of wildlife trade, and today Africa and the world stands to lose some unique and precious elephant populations in west Africa.

Why? Because there are people out there who think an ivory trinket is a symbol of wealth. I really wonder what kind of people these are.

How can one feel pride in wearing jewelry taken from an elephants tooth. A tooth that has been hacked out of a dead elephant. An elephant shot in cold blood, injured, hurt, tortured. An animal with amazing senses – the vision of people, it can hear over 50 kilometers, through it’s feet! An animal that feels, loves, cries, mourns, plays, thinks and feels. An animal that communicates complex information in frequencies we cannot detect. If you have ever seen elephants in the wild you can’t help but feel humbled.

I think of the Japanese youth the Chinese teenagers, American, Australian, African and European tourists and business people, How can they believe that killing such a creature produce something beautiful?

There is a huge controversy and much anger expressed about the reopening of culling in South Africa. which is covered here, here and here It is likely that South Africa will seek to sell the meat and ivory to the highest bidder. It’s a decision many in poor African countries will see as logical. I see it creating and feeding a sick demand. It’s a personal opinion from someone who may be too close to wildlife.

I almost don’t want to ask this but is there anyone out there who actually seriously thinks that their ivory bracelet, or neck charm, or signature stamp is worth the brutal death of a majestic elephant?

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0 comments on “Illegal wildlife trade is fueling wars in Africa

  1. Pingback: UpperDigitalSLRCamera » Blog Archive » Illegal wildlife trade is fueling wars in Africa

  2. sheryl, washington dc on said:

    “Obama is about to become the new USA president …”

    Not if I have anything to say about it.


  3. Bruno on said:

    Ivory is not worth the brutal death of a majestic elephant……………….

  4. sheryl, washington dc on said:

    OK, now that the political comment is off my chest …

    I just blogged about the Newsweek story yesterday. I often post information from DawnWatch, a service run by Karen Dawn who’s an animal rights activist in the U.S. I don’t post all of her alerts, though, but there’s information at the bottom of my blog post about how to sign up for her mailing list.

    NOTHING is worth the death of any animal. We have lost the balance on this planet and it was ours to protect. We’ve screwed up – cosmically.

    Christine C. and I attended a presentation by Wildlife Alliance at the National Zoo last week about wildlife crime. Killing wildlife for money funds wars, rebellions, maybe even the drug trade. This is the worst crisis we may face as wildlife conservationists.


  5. Pingback: Illegal wildlife trade is fueling wars in Africa | Great Trade

  6. F. J. Pechir on said:

    Thank you Paula for your comment. I think that you already know my opinion about this problem and about this insane practices, I´m with you. As you said in another of your posts, the elephant´s overpopulation must be prevented, but now that there is a real possibility of this, a solution not involving a slaughter must be found. Maybe you have readed my comments abouth this issue in the last weeks here in the blogs of Wildlife Direct, I´m against the slaughter under every point of view, and I have expressed my personal opinion about this in an attempt to raise awareness. You are right when saying that if South Africa takes the option of a slaughter and then sell the meat and ivory, it will be feeding the never-ending trade of this parts. The ivory of most of the 290,000 elephants killed by poachers since the 1970´s in central Africa alone has been used to support militias and even political movements in many parts of the african continent, well outside central Africa. In this part of the continent, specially Chad, with some of its national parks, including Zakouma National Park, has been able to mantain a more or less protected viable elephant population, about 3,500 elephants live in Zakouma protected by 88 armed guards. Six of this guards have died in the last years protecting elephants, and more than 100 rangers in different african countries also have died protecting this magnifficent animals. It is just offensive and obcene to know there are people around the world that can even think on buying anything made of the parts of elephants or every other wildlife, when there are people dying to protect this very same wildlife! But, unfortunately, there are. I´m very happy that you write something about elephants and in particular about the problem they face in South Africa. I will continue with my writing on this issue, I think that everything that can raise awareness about this situation in South Africa could help in the efforts to save this threatened creatures! Thanks again Paula!

  7. Theresa Siskind St Petersburg FL on said:

    Paula, totally agree with you and Sheryl. I’m ashamed that the US is right behind China in the number of illegal/legal imports of wildlife remains. In fact, there are eateries in both NYC and LA where you can “dine” on bushmeat, including lions and primates. Buying and wearing anything made from killing an elephant, or any animal is vanity in its most heinous and vulgar form.

  8. Theresa Siskind St Petersburg FL on said:

    Hi F.J. Didn’t see your comments, as I was writing mine at the time. Thank you, for your insight on this heartbreaking subject. You know, I went to the WWF website to see if they had a petition to sign re banning the culling of South Africa’s elephants. I was shocked and saddened with their position on this subject…

  9. sheryl, washington dc on said:

    One of the facts that we learned from the Wildlife Alliance presentation is that the U.S. ranks second in wildlife crime. SECOND. I am horrified.

    I don’t believe there’s an overpopulation of elephants on this planet. There’s an overpopulation of HUMANS, who can breed at will with a short gestation period compared to the elephant. How did we come to believe that we are more important than any other animal on Earth? It’s not true. Not true at all. Sadly, we’re going to learn this lesson far too late and then we’ll be extinct.


  10. Lisa, California on said:

    It’s just all too sick. Theresa, I would like to know where those eateries are in LA. Do you know? Paula, Sheryl, FJ, Theresa I agree with you all. Lisa

  11. Theresa Siskind St Petersburg FL on said:

    Lisa, you can email me @ and I can then email the article to you. I must warn you, this article is tantamount to meeting the devil himself. I have never read anything more evil in my entire life.

  12. antonio canella italy on said:

    This article is very intersting .
    The destruction of natural resources like the wildlife is a tipical approach from rebels group and terrorists (like the Jahad) to have money.Another is for example the traffic of clandestines.
    I hope in a bigger interest from the analists and politicians of the western world about this problem especially in Africa

  13. Wanda, Atlanta on said:

    I think if anyone has the name of the restaurants that serve bushmeat they should report it to every possible animal rights person in the US and overseas and “all” animal rights groups should come down on them with the “wrath of God” -it takes the people to make it happen the politicians and governments don’t care what people eat – it’s pretty obvious when they let China poison us and out pets with their tainted food they send over here !!!!

  14. sheryl, washington dc on said:

    I wish I new where the bushmeat restaurants were in the District, but you need money and connections to find them out. I’d certainly out their asses to PETA in a minute.


  15. admin on said:

    I’d be very interested in this information as well. …and photos, copies of menues…lets take these guys down!

  16. Michael on said:

    I’m delighted to see several comments related to Wildlife Alliance’s event at the National Zoo last week. I hope the event was eye-opening and raised awareness of the international illegal wildlife trade.

  17. sheryl, washington dc on said:

    Michael, were you there? I get the Alliance’s e-mail newsletters but I’m also a volunteer at the zoo. Sat next to the woman who asked the question about how wildlife crime is connected to the drug trade. I thought it was a good-sized crowd, too.


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