Wildlife Task Force meets to combat organized crime targeted at elephants and rhinos

Rhinoceros

From May 17-19, 2011, the Ivory and Rhinoceros Enforcement Task Force of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) met in Gigiri, Kenya to discuss urgent actions against crimes targeting these two animals.

The smuggling of elephant ivory continues to occur at significant levels, and the people behind the illegal trade do not appear to be deterred by the regular losses they are suffering at the hands of border control agencies. As recently as last week, officials in Kenya seized over 1 ton of ivory about to be smuggled out of the country.

The level of rhinoceros poaching is putting South Africa’s rhino population under high pressure. 13 rhinos were poached in 2007, 83 in 2008, 122 in 2009, 330 in 2010. And in just the first four months of 2011, 159 rhinos were illegally killed.

Mali Elephants

The CITES Task Force learned more about the possible demands for rhino horn and elephant tusks. The rhino horn is primarily in high demand for its traditional medicinal uses and is newly rumored to be an effective treatment for cancer. Elephants are poached for their ivory tusks that are carved into decorative items that consumers are willing to pay high prices for. The Task Force participants agreed that greater communication, collaboration and coordination are needed at national and international levels. Data will need to be regularly exchanged regarding persons who travel to countries (such as South Africa) to engage in purportedly legal hunting, but whose actual intention is to obtain animal body parts to be sold on the black market.

David Higgens, INTERPOL’s Environmental Crime Manager, spoke about how the illegal trade in wildlife can significantly affect a nation’s economy and security. In the case of illegal ivory and rhino horn trafficking, heavily armed poaching gangs can reduce tourism revenue and possibly place the tourist in danger. To read the whole article, please visit the CITES website.

Additionally, the Wilderness Foundation in South Africa – WILD’s sister organization – is currently working on anti-poaching campaigns.

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