posted by Kevin Heath of Wildlife News
The world has watched in horror as the scale of the Al-Shabaab attack on the Westgate shopping centre in Nairobi unfolded. It was the latest – and largest – attack in the campaign by the terrorist group which has spread across Africa. Up to 40% of the funds that Al-Shabaab needs to undertake these terrorist attacks comes from ivory buyers and consumers.
While much press is targeted at the elephant poacher the reality is that they are there to meet the demands of a market. It is the consumer and buyer of ivory – whether for ornamental purposes or consumption in medicinal ‘cure’ – that creates the market and sends funds to the terrorist groups.
In an investigation in 2011, Nir Kalron (Founder & CEO of Maisha Consulting) and Andrea Crosta (Executive Director & Co-Founder of the Elephant Action League), discovered that 40% of funding to keep Al-Shabaab operational came from elephant poaching and ivory smuggling activities. It’s not just ivory that the terrorist group is involved with, rhino horn is also a lucrative trade that helps them buy guns, ammunition and explosives.
Al-Shabaab in 2011 were earning between $200,000 and $600,000 a month from ivory sales which helps to pay their soldiers and terrorists a higher wage and better living conditions than rangers and soldiers of governments. With an estimated wage bill (in 2011) of $1.5 million a month ivory sales can contribute up to 40% of the organisations operational costs.
Following the recent announcement by the White House to boost its actions against poaching a hearing was held by the U.S. International Conservation Caucus. At that meeting Ian Saunders, founder of Tsavo Trust, revealed that the Al Qaeda attacks on the US embassies in Nairobi and Dar es Salam during 1998 cost and estimated $50,000 – or the street value of less than 2 decent size elephant tusks.
In 2012 the estimated retail value of black-market ivory was about $1800 a kilogramme. With adult elephant tusks weighing up to 50kg or even 70kg the rewards for Al-Shabaab are high. The profits are so high because Al-Shabaab controls so much of the middle section of the supply chain. They pay poachers less than $100 for a pair of adult tusks.
Earlier this year the Kenya Wildlife Service announced that they had launched an investigation in to the scale of involvement of Al-Shabaab in poaching in Kenya.
Elgiva Bwire, who is currently in prison in Kenya for Al-Shabaab terrorist offences, has claimed that the South Kitui Game Reserve and Kora National Reserve are major hide-outs for Al-Shabaab in Kenya. The parks have a long history of problems with poachers. Kora National Reserve was made a national park in 1989 following the murder of George Adamson and two colleagues by poachers.
The link between terrorism and ivory is now so strong that the term ‘blood ivory’ has been coined. Those who buy ivory now are actively supporting terrorism around the world and the murder of innocent people including children.
The former director of the Kenya Wildlife Service, Julius Kipng’etich, in March 2012 told the US Congressional Staff that Al-Shabaab was so involved in poaching that he asked people to stop wearing ivory based jewellery as doing so was effectively supporting groups such as Al-Shabaab and Al-Qaeda.