Confronting the Poaching Crisis

in Program

By Brian Finlay

Last week, poachers killed and cut off the horn of a white rhino at a zoo outside of Paris. The butchering of Vince — a 4-year-old male white rhino — was a barbaric act that highlighted the uphill fight against sophisticated international crime syndicates that profit from the sale of animal parts on the black market. The activities of these illicit networks threaten biodiversity, foment insecurity, and depress local economies that depend upon eco-tourism. Stimson has worked for years — and will continue to work — to find new solutions to combat the scourge of wildlife crime.

Tsavo West National Park in Kenya is home to the Ngulia Rhino Sanctuary. Not long ago, thousands of rhinos lived here. But when we visited in 2013, that number had dropped to only 60. Park rangers were overmatched and outgunned, fighting a losing battle against poachers. Global assistance efforts were overpriced and ill-coordinated. A new approach was needed to thwart the illicit trade of rhino horn — a commodity which is now more valuable on the black market than gold.

The effort to protect Ngulia Rhino Sanctuary led Stimson’s team across continents. We spoke with governments and businesses — academics and advocates. We built a coalition of the capable. We relied on expertise from partners including, Linköping University, iHub, and Airtel, which gave their time and talent to develop a durable, cost-effective solution. We listened to the needs of the park rangers on the ground — and created a public-private partnership based upon a mobile app and command, control & communications infrastructure. Now, three and a half years later, progress has been made to tip the scales back in favor of the park rangers. For the first time in years, the rhino population is growing.

Our work at Ngulia is rooted in a simple notion: that groups can accomplish more by working together than they can working independently. At their very best, coalitions with diverse partners can tackle big challenges — whether defined as security, development, or environmental.

Rhino poaching is just a small part of an immense estimated $19 billion per year illegal wildlife trade. This black market trade poses not only an environmental risk — but an acute challenge to development and security. In a world facing daunting transnational threats, more creative partnerships are needed to engineer new solutions.
It is my hope that this Ngulia partnership — and the lessons learned from it — can be scaled and replicated in other areas of global policy significance. Your financial support of Stimson’s innovative work is critical for our efforts against poaching to continue and succeed. Please click here to support us today.
I invite you to read more about the project here.  

Brian Finlay is President and CEO of the Stimson Center

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