Trade in blood
It was not meant to be just another international meet against illegal wildlife trade. What promised that this one would be different was mainly its much talked-about agenda: addressing the possible nexus between wildlife poaching and terrorism. Diplomats, former military officials and security officials were all stressing the need to deal with illegal wildlife trade for international security.
“Poaching of endangered elephants and rhinos has become a conservation crisis and profits from wildlife crimes are filling the coffers of terrorist organisations,” Johan Bergenas wrote in a piece co-authored with Monica Medina in the Washington Post just before the wildlife conference in London last week. “An undercover investigation in Kenya concluded that illegal ivory funds as much as 40 percent of the operations of al-Shabab, the group behind the November attack at a Nairobi shopping mall where 60 people were killed,” the piece read.
Coinciding with the illegal wildlife trade conference, Bergenas’ organisation, the Stimson Centre, brought out a report throwing light on the possible connection between wildlife poaching and terrorism financing. “The spike in poaching and wildlife crime coincides with the increased involvement of sophisticated transnational organised criminals and terrorist organisations,” the report read.
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