Wildlife Poaching: Africa's Surging Trafficking Threat
NATIONAL DEFENSE UNIV FORT MCNAIR DC AFRICA CENTER FOR STRATEGIC STUDIES
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A booming black market trade worth hundreds of millions of dollars is fueling corruption in Africa s ports, customs offices, and security forces as well as providing new revenues for insurgent groups and criminal networks across the continent. Rather than narcotics, small arms, or other commonly trafficked goods, however, it is recordbreaking numbers of poached elephants and rhinoceroses that are driving this cycle of exploitation and instability. Poaching is not a new problem in Africa. Its dramatic acceleration since the late 2000s, however, has significantly altered its implications. By some estimates, the number of African elephants killed annually since 2007 has more than doubled to over 30,000.1 The trend crossed a chilling threshold in 2010 as the rate of killings surpassed that at which elephants breed, indicating that significant net population declines have begun. Rhino poaching has also skyrocketed. Illegal killings in southern Africa from 2000 to 2007 were rare, frequently fewer than 10 a year. An explosion in poaching rates commenced in 2008. By 2013, 1,004 rhinos were poached in South Africa alone. Soaring global prices for ivory and rhino horn are driving this poaching frenzy. In 2003, high-quality ivory sold for roughly 200 per kilogram. The same amount could fetch 2,500-3,000 on the black market in 2013. The escalation in prices for rhino horn has been even more dramatic. Whereas a kilogram of rhino horn cost around 800 in the 1990s, it is now more valuable than gold. Some reports pegged the price of rhino horn in 2013 at 65,000 per kilogram. Thus, the horns from the 1,004 rhinos killed in South Africa may be worth 440 million. Such inflated prices, which exceed the value of cocaine and heroin in some countries, are overwhelming an already endangered species. The trend has even prompted a crime spree at some museums and auction houses with exhibits containing ivory or horn.
- Sociology and Law