22 May, 14:32

WildLeaks: Exposing the Links Between Elephant Poaching and Boko Haram

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By David Kerans

WASHINGTON (VR)—A new report from US animal advocacy group Born Free USA and the US non-profit Center for Advanced Defense Studies a has pinned down with unprecedented precision the connections between the illicit trade in ivory and a variety of terrorist and insurgent groups that pose serious threats to the stability of many nations in Africa.

"Ivory's Curse: The Militarization and Professionalization of Poaching in Africa" details the $1 billion per year trade in ivory, harvested from the slaughter of approximately 50,000 elephants annually. Among other findings, the report reinforces earlier research noting the dependence of Somali terror group al-Shabaab on systematic ivory poaching. It also implicates government-allied militias involved in genocide in the Darfur region of Sudan in poaching, and it identifies Nigerian terror group Boko Haram’s elephant poaching operations in Cameroon.

“The modern ivory trade was built on war,” says Varun Vira, one of the authors of “Ivory’s Curse.” And of course this trade depends at least in part on corrupt government officials in many countries who facilitate the movement of ivory.

For insight into hidden relationships in the ivory trade and wildlife crimes more broadly, Radio VR’s David Kerans spoke with the head of the California-based Elephant Action League, Andrea Crosta. Crosta is also project leader of newly-established WildLeaks, the go-to venue for whistleblowers—including ordinary citizens—to submit information on crimes related to wildlife, forests, or other aspects of the environment. Crosta came to his current station from a career in the security sector, which included investigation of al-Shabaab’s role in the ivory trade.

Crosta reiterated the main concerns of “Ivory’s Curse,” and reviewed the fast progress WildLeaks has made since its launch in February of this year. He says “about 60 to 70” tips on large-scale crimes have come in, largely from Africa, but including some exposing organizations illicitly trading wildlife (live animals as well as ivory, etc.) or poaching wolves and bears in the United States. He also detailed the partnerships WildLeaks has forged with allied organizations, and discussed progress in raising awareness around the globe of WildLeaks, which will translate into more whistleblowing and scrutiny of crimes against wildlife and the environment.

Listen to the conversation between Crosta and Kerans here:

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