Tag Archives: ivory tusks

Chinese merchant gateways for ivory and rhino horns (Namibia)

From the Zambezi River to Joburg and Maputo
Hongxiang Huang and Oxpeckers, Pambazuka, Issue 673

April 10, 2014
Namibia has enjoyed a good reputation for its nature conservation, but there is evidence the illegal trade in wildlife products is taking off.

In the remote Zambezi region of Southern Africa, where Namibia shares international borders with Angola, Zambia, Botswana and Zimbabwe, geography and opportunity create ideal circumstances for ivory poachers.

With more than 9,100 residential elephants and 30,000 migrating elephants, according to 2013 data, elephant poaching was not a serious issue in the transborder area until recently. In 2010 and 2011, the numbers of elephant poached in isolated cases were four and six respectively. However, in 2012 the situation changed, with at least 78 elephants poached by international smugglers in one year. By November 2013, official records showed that at least 20 elephants had been poached since the start of the year, and 35 smuggling suspects had been arrested.

Namibia was the first African country to incorporate protection of the environment into its constitution and today more than 40 per cent of the country’s surface area is under conservation management. Community-based conservancies are well integrated into the tourism industry. In the Zambezi region, formerly known as Caprivi, officials noticed a growth in wildlife trafficking from around 2010. ‘That Chinese [man] you mentioned appears to be the most important middle player in it, although some other nationals have their channels as well,’ said Shadrick Siloka, chief warden in the Ministry of Environment and Tourism (MET) office of Katima, the capital of Zambezi region.

During my first visit to the MET office two days previously, officials had been reluctant to release any information, However, but once I shared some results from my own undercover investigation in the Chinese community of Katima, they were prepared to admit they were investigating the same person.

According to Siloka, the change in the status quo was associated with hearing the name of Guo Yunhui, a Chinese businessman in Katima. In 2010, the MET heard from informers that Guo was collecting pythons and pangolins. In 2011, Guo was arrested for buying two ivory tusks from MET staff, fined 20,000 Namibian dollars and released. But informers and the MET allege that he is again at the centre of the Namibian ivory trade, and is using the same transportation and trading routes as his formal business. My undercover investigation supported this theory.

In his everyday persona, Guo Yunhui is the owner of Sweet Guest House, the only Chinese hostel in Katima. Most of its clientele are Africans, many from Zambia. Like many other Chinese, he has his main business and then informal business, and consequently rarely shows up at his guesthouse, which is managed on a daily basis by two local women.

As a Chinese journalist I was able to meet and socialise with many Chinese shop owners in Katima, and to ask about Guo Yunhui and the trade in animal products. Zheng, a Chinese worker in a Chinese construction company near Katima, is a friend of Guo’s family and he visits them frequently. According to Zheng, Guo is still engaged in his wildlife smuggling business.

Chen, a Chinese businessman in Rundu, also confirmed that Guo is active in the business, although he didn’t characterise it as smuggling, but rather as helping Chinese in far-flung cities to acquire ivory souvenirs. Ou, a Chinese shop owner, claimed he lent Guo money when Guo was buying ivory in the past, and that Guo was conducting a lot of informal ‘side business’ of a dubious nature. However, Ou had not seen Guo for a long time.

Guo may not be the largest player in the Zambezi ivory market, according to Li, a leader in the Chinese-Fujian business communities of Namibia. Li referred to another Chinese man in Katima whom he said was found by police in early 2013 with more than 100kg of ivory, but MET said it did not know about the case. The low risk of getting caught, added to monetary incentives and the Chinese community’s lack of support for the Namibian conservation effort, are all factors encouraging and enabling wildlife smuggling.

Katima is a central hub of trading between trans-border African smugglers and Chinese shop keepers and traders. Chinese shops dominate the main road in town, and unlike employees from Chinese state-owned companies who are driven by state policy, these Chinese shop owners are usually self-driven immigrants simply looking for business space and an opportunity to make money.

Most of the time they are from second or third-tier cities or small towns in China where services are poor, and consequently they are characterized by low educational achievements and poor foreign language skills. Outside China, even the Chinese government does not have clear statistics about them, not to mention effective management.

My investigation indicated the majority of them are from Fujian province, including the ivory smuggler Guo Yunhui. Many of the shop owners are linked to the ivory trade in the guise of buying and selling of ivory souvenirs and artefacts for export and sale to tourists. Because of the widely perceived permissibility of the small ‘souvenir’ trade in ivory products, the Chinese community members are reluctant to blow the whistle on the larger ivory smugglers, and alleged involvement by Chinese diplomats themselves, even though they are aware that these individuals are ruining the reputation of Chinese businesspeople more generally in Africa.

Many Chinese shun the easy money to be made by ivory and rhino horn smuggling because they know it is wrong and illegal. But relations with host country law enforcement and conservation officers remain too weak for them to break their false loyalty to other Chinese nationals, even when they are indulging in criminal behaviour.

In Katima, it is common for Chinese people to be approached by African ivory sellers, mostly Zambians. Ou said in the 10 years he has lived in Zambezi he has been approached many times by sellers who tell him how high the profit is if he would transport ivory from Namibia to China.

This is confirmed by the MET, who recorded that the price Guo paid to the sellers of ivory was 300 Namibian dollars per kilo, whereas in Asia the selling price is at least 3 000 US dollars per kilo. In Oshikango, another border town west of Katima, I spoke to Yang, a shop owner in Chinatown. ‘Zambians used to come to our Chinatown with boxes full of ivory, and lots of Chinese shop owners have bought them,’ he said. He claimed to have taken small amounts of ivory back to China many times, and they were never found by customs.

Yang also said he had bought some rhino horn powder, but did not want to give further details ‘I know there are people smuggling full rhino horns back to China, but you are being too curious. Don’t ask too much about such things,’ he said.

‘In 2012 the amount of ivory we captured was 70 per cent to 80 per cent of the amount of ivory taken from poached elephants in Namibia,’ said Morgan Saisai, the chief control officer of MET in Katima. According to MET officials, the ivory on the Zambezi market is not only from local sources, but is being transported from surrounding countries. The criminal groups they have apprehended included Zambians, Congolese and Zimbabweans working with Namibians.

‘Zambia is where ivory and smugglers are most likely to come into Namibia,’ said Oswald Rall, a former policeman still living in the region. Katima is where it is easiest for the Chinese people to buy ivory from Zambians. Infrastructure is rapidly improving, at least because of Chinese road construction projects. Truck routes from Walvis Bay on the coast to Rundu and Katima, then on to Zambia and the Democratic Republic of Congo, are relatively efficient and fast.

Using trucks and networks for transporting other goods businesses, ivory is transported to areas with the highest densities of Chinese. It is placed in the retail markets, and becomes small souvenirs for Chinese people to carry home to China in their luggage.

What is most worrying for the conservation of elephants is that the ivory trade is just one of a number of illegal behaviours which are viewed as normal and far from wrong among the Chinese residents. Eager to make personal gains, many do not care whether it is legal or not as long as punishment is avoidable. In such a context, buying small amounts of ‘souvenir’ ivory is not considered smuggling, so that a large ivory market is formed by many individuals buying small retail amounts which collectively represent a large amount wholesale. According to the Chinese who take home souvenirs, the chance of ivory being discovered by airport customs in Namibia or China is very low and even when it is found, the consequences are not severe.

During this investigation, many Chinese expressed the view that they wished the Chinese immigrant communities could be better managed in order to reduce the reputational damage being done to all Chinese people in Africa by the activities of just a few. This view is made more apposite as long as the small traders remain beyond the reach of the law, and are thus tempted to join the illegal trade.

While ivory trade in Namibia is not yet as large as in other African countries like Mozambique, it is growing. There is evidence that the scale of trade is more than a few Chinese families buying from Africans across the border and reselling small souvenirs to other Chinese people. In fact, this characterisation indicates a dangerous complacency, particularly as the evidence shows that much bigger volumes are trading through these networks – and they include wildlife products from other endangered species besides elephants.

China is responsible for an estimated 70 percent of the world trade in elephant tusk ivory, and research by the international wildlife trade monitoring organisation traffic indicates that nearly 80 percent of reported illegal rhino horn seizures in Asia between 2009 and late last year happened in China. For the first time, journalists from mainland China worked with African journalists on an undercover investigation into the Chinese role in the ivory and rhino horns market in South Africa and Mozambique.

Wildlife trafficking syndicates brazenly sell rhino horn and ivory at Chinese markets in Southern Africa’s capital cities, in the face of global attempts to crack down on the illicit trade in endangered species. Who are the people involved, and how do they go about buying these illegal products? Until it was closed, the Bruma Lake flea market in eastern Johannesburg and nearby New Chinatown have been a hub of the illicit trade in rhino horns and ivory in South Africa. Transactions between African sellers and Asian buyers occurred relatively openly on a daily basis.

From 9am to 5pm, sellers hung around the entrance to the Bruma flea market and eagerly surround Chinese people as they approach. ‘What are you looking for? Do you want xiangya? I have,’ said Mike, a seller who hails from the Democratic Republic of Congo. ‘Do you have xiniujiao?’ we asked. Xiangya is the Chinese term for ivory, xiniujiao for rhino horns, and it is clear Mike, as well as many other shop owners, is familiar with the terms. ‘Xiniujiao… anytime but now. If you come back next month, maybe I could help you get some. Now it is impossible,’ said Mike.

He opened a door which is covered by a hanged blanket, showed us into a secret room near his craft shop where he has a stock of worked ivory products: small sculptures of elephants, chopsticks, necklaces, bracelets. The price is not too expensive, starting at $20 a piece. Matt, a Zimbabwean who works in Mike’s craft shop, said most of the rhino horns and ivory they are selling comes from his home country. He explained how he imports it: ‘There is a river that divides the two countries and we find a part where the water is not too deep and there is almost no security patrolling. We take off our clothes and carry the stuff on our shoulders across the river.’ His biggest concern was crocodiles in some parts of the Limpopo River.

Other shop owners in the market called out to us with offers of xiangya and xiniujiao. ‘Your Chinese friends may find it hard to get rhino horns, but we are Africans, we know how.’ said Ernest, another shop owner from the Congo,

Along Derrick Avenue in New Chinatown, home to most of Johannesburg’s recent Chinese immigrants, we spoke to Gong, a taxi driver whose business card includes various services related to immigration, the embassy and police. ‘It is easy to buy ivory and I could help you tell which ones are fake — I have been buying it for many years,’ he says.

Ivory is just one of the businesses Gong has engaged in since he immigrated to South Africa six years ago. Like most Chinese in the New Chinatown community, he did not have a good educational background and barely speaks English. He used to assist a friend running a brothel until police closed it down.

However, he does not think it is a good idea for a visitor to purchase rhino horns here because it has become too risky. ‘Nowadays it is more dangerous than drugs,’ he said. ‘Even if I could get it for you, I would not take the risk of selling it to an outsider like you rather than known partners. Ivory and rhino horns are like weed [dagga] and heroine.’

Gong says fewer Chinese are directly involved in smuggling rhino horn these days, although some still buy from Vietnamese traffickers. Consumers would be better advised to buy horn in China, where he could introduce us to sellers, he adds. China accounted for an estimated two-thirds of the number and weight of horns seized in Asia between 2009 and September 2012, according to figures collated by Traffic.

Many employees of Chinese companies in South Africa avoid New Chinatown, so named to distinguish it from the original Chinatown in central Johannesburg, because of its reputation for being involved with smuggling and other dangerous business. ‘I would usually not go to the New Chinatown area. There is a mix of good people and various criminals,’ says Zhang Jinguo, the head of the Chinese Construction Bank in Johannesburg.

Among the Chinese residents of Johannesburg, it is common knowledge that the Chinese buy ivory and rhino horn much more often in Maputo, capital city of neighbouring Mozambique. The Saturday market at Praça 25 de Junho in Maputo is the main buying site for employees of Chinese companies who are not well educated and have unskilled jobs. ‘The products are unique and cheap,’ says Chen, a frequent Chinese buyer in Maputo who works for a Chinese construction company.

At the Saturday market, Kai, a 29-year-old working for a Chinese telecommunications company, is shooting a video to send to his families in China. ‘Hello dears, look where I am. This is the most famous ivory market here, I will bring you some good stuff,’ he says.

Shop owners like Adam are visibly excited when they see a group of Chinese people approaching. ‘Come, we have heimu and xiangya,’ he says. He says the Chinese are generally interested in buying two things in Mozambique: heimu, which is a black wood, and xiangya, namely ivory.

He also offers rhino horns at $15,000 a kilogram, though he says he does not keep it in the marketplace because it is too expensive. He opens a big box filled with various ivory products and displays them openly. However, when some Chinese customers lift the ivory too high he asks them to put them down, in case the police notice and make trouble.

Dong, an employee of a Chinese national oil company who has been in Mozambique for almost four years, is browsing through the market with three colleagues. He is mostly interested in buying bracelets made of black wood, animal horns and ivory. After bargaining, he buys two ivory bracelets for about $50 and his colleague buys two as well. ‘We will need to take them apart and hide the pieces in the corners of our luggage. Then even if customs finds some we can still make them up into bracelets again in China,’ Dong advises his less-experienced colleague.

As Dong’s group walks away, a nearby shop owner reminds them to hide their ivory bracelets inside their pockets, because if the police see them they will ask for money to ‘solve the problem’. Policemen are patrolling the market all the time, but they seem more interested in asking foreigners for their passports and money than finding ivory.

Unlike the Saturday ‘ivory market’, the craft market on nearby Mao Tse Tung avenue opens every day. Chen, who has worked for a Maputo-based Chinese construction company for the past two years, is going back home in December and needs to stock up on souvenirs for friends and families. He buys two pairs of ivory chopsticks, and says even though they may be confiscated by customs he can afford the loss. ‘Sometimes they pass and these things are cheap enough to be taken away if we have bad luck,’ he says.

A colleague recently bought a large ivory sculpture and when it was found by customs officers in Mozambique he paid $300 to get it through. No one at customs in Beijing found it, Chen says. He has a good collection of ivory products, and believes they can be an investment. ‘When you have enough money, you display them in your house. When you need money, you can always sell them,’ he says.

Most of the Chinese buyers know where the ivory comes from, but don’t care about the slaughter of elephants. Kai, one of the buyers of ivory bracelets, sums up their feeling when he admits that he did not feel guilty about buying ivory products even though he knows how the sellers get it. However, there are some Chinese who refuse to buy into the market. ‘These items are art from killing,’ says Xu, a friend and colleague of Kai. But he indicates that there are few Chinese like him.

The Chinese embassy in Pretoria challenged this investigation in a letter published by the Mail & Guardian. Pan Peng, the embassy’s press counsellor, wrote: ‘The Chinese government attaches great importance to the protection of wildlife and has promulgated laws and regulations in this concern, established a multi-sectoral joint law-enforcement mechanism, and taken various measures to protect wildlife and raise public awareness.’ As a signatory to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) since 1981, China has long been committed to co-operation with South Africa on wildlife protection, Peng said.

* Chinese journalist and recent Oxpeckers fellow Hongxiang Huang, along with other journalists who chose not to be named, travelled to smuggling hotspots across Southern Africa, including capital cities and the Zambezi border region where five Southern African countries intersect to investigate the Chinese connection. The investigation by the Oxpeckers center of investigative environmental journalists was supported by the Wits China-Africa reporting programme and the forum of African investigative reporters. Some names have not been divulged because of the sensitive nature of this investigation.

Article at the following link:

Tanzania: Self-Confessed Poacher Files Against Sentence

Tanzania Daily News
2 April 2014

A CHINESE national, Yu Bo, who was recently jailed 20 years after his failure to pay a 9bn/- fine for unlawful possession of government trophies worth over 978m/-, has filed a notice of appeal to challenge the sentence passed against him.

He filed the notice of appeal at the Kisutu Resident Magistrate’s Court in Dar es Salaam, expressing his intention to appeal to the High Court to challenge the sentence given by Senior Resident Magistrate  Devota Kisoka on March 18, this year.

The magistrate convicted the Chinese poacher on his own plea of guilt. After the conviction, the magistrate imposed the severe sentence to serve as a lesson to other like-minded people.

“The accused person is sentenced to pay 9,781,204,900/-. In default, he should serve 20 years’ imprisonment,” the magistrate had declared after considering the mitigation factors presented by the convict seeking the court’s mercy.

Bo had told the court that it was his first time to be convicted in a criminal case and had several dependants. The prosecution, led by Senior State Attorney Faraja Nchimbi, on the other hand, sought for a severe sentence because the offence committed was serious.

Facts of the case show that the convict entered the country for business purposes on November 26, last year. Shortly after his arrival, he initiated communications with a syndicate of poachers within and outside Tanzania for the purpose of poaching elephants and other animals, including pangolins.

In the process, the convict and other poachers who are yet to be arrested managed to collect 81 elephant tusks and two pangolin scales which were eventually hidden in Mwenge area in Kinondoni district in the city.

The accused had no permit from the Director of Wildlife Division allowing him to possess the said ivory tusks and the pangolin scales. On December 30, last year, in the evening, the convict loaded the government trophies on a Mazda pick-up with registration No. T 218 BUY.

Covered with other various animal carvings, Bo then transported the said trophies to Dar es Salaam port with intent to ship them to the People’s Republic of China. On arrival at the gate of the port at around 20.30pm, he asked permission to go to one of the docked ships.

Before being granted permission, security officers on duty searched the motor vehicle and uncovered the said 81 elephant tusks and the two pangolin scales which were concealed in wooden boxes on board the pick-up.

Bo was subsequently arrested and taken to the police station for interrogation. During the session, the convict admitted being found with the government trophies and that he had not secured any permit.

Article at the following link:

Hong Kong customs reports 40 pct more smuggling cases in 2013

January 30, 2014

Hong Kong’s customs authority on Wednesday revealed that it had detected a total of 282 smuggling cases in 2013, an increase of about 40 percent compared with 2012.

The commissioner of Hong Kong’s Customs and Excise, Clement Cheung, said that the total seizures of the smuggling cases worth 652 million HK dollars ($83.97 million), an increase of 90 percent.

Cheung said as smuggling between China’s mainland and Hong Kong had been on the rise and more complicated, the customs restructured its internal organs in early 2013 to improve effectiveness of joint operations with the mainland and overseas law enforcement agencies.

Since the implementation of export control on powdered formula for infants and young children in March 2013, about 4,300 cases have been detected with more than 33,000 kg of powdered formula seized at various customs control points as of the end of last year.

Cheung said that the department would continue to liaise closely with its mainland counterpart and spare no efforts in combating parallel trading activities.

For anti-narcotics work, the authority detected a total of 518 cases and seized 445 kg of various kinds of drugs, 75 percent of which were detected at Hong Kong International Airport. As for the cases involving controlled chemicals used for drug manufacturing, the number of cases increased two times over 2012 to 33, the majority of which were related to pseudoephedrine.

Cheung said the department would set up a dedicated team to strengthen external liaison and intelligence exchange for maintaining high enforcement effectiveness.

On endangered species, 192 cases involving ivory tusks and ivory products, rhino horns, leopard skin, pangolin carcass and scale and dried sea horses were detected in 2013.

The quantity and value of ivory tusks seized in 2013 increased by 43 percent and 115 percent respectively compared with those of 2012, which proves Hong Kong’s dedication and perseverance in shouldering its international obligations, Cheung said.

On intellectual property rights protection, the number of infringement cases detected increased by 30 percent to 720, of which 88 percent involved counterfeit goods.

Cheung said with the growing popularity of the Internet and rapid growth of e-commerce, the cases of online sale of counterfeit goods and that of delivering infringing goods by courier services surged by 1.7 and 1.5 times respectively.

The department has strengthened communication with Hong Kong Post and is liaising with the logistics industry to address the issue at source, he said.

Deputy commissioner of the department, Luke Au Yeung, said that the department would set up a dedicated team to foster liaison and intelligence exchange with the mainland and overseas enforcement agencies to combat transnational drugs trafficking.

Enforcement at source would be able to curb the inflow of drugs to Hong Kong or other destinations via Hong Kong, further enhancing the department’s drug detection capability at the Hong Kong International Airport and land boundary control points, he said.

Chinese border guards intercept £80,000 of ivory

Leya Musa, Wildlife News

January 13, 2014

Border guards in the Chinese province of Fangchenggang become suspicious of a pick up truck after they spotted the driver acting nervously. After taking a closer look at the vehicle they found a box strapped under the van filled with ivory tusks worth over £80,000.

The guards stumbled on the haul on 8th February while they were operating at a routine check-point. The Fangchenggang province borders with Vietnam in the south of China.

When the border guards stopped the vehicle for the check the driver became agitated and failed to provide sufficient answers being asked by the guards.

The guards decided a closer look at the vehicle was necessary and after crawling under the pick-up they discovered the box which was filled with 35 tusks.

The total weight of the ivory was 275kg and the largest of the tusks measured 1.5m long.

The discovery came just 2 days after China destroyed 6.1 tonnes of ivory in a demonstration of its commitment to fighting the illegal trade in ivory.

Seven travellers sentenced for smuggling ivory tusks (China/South Africa)

7th Space
December 16, 2013
Hong Kong (HKSAR) – Seven travellers were convicted of smuggling ivory tusks and worked ivory at the Tsuen Wan Magistrates’ Courts. One of them was sentenced to four months’ imprisonment while the six others were fined $30,000 to $80,000.

Customs officers seized a total of about 160 kilograms of ivory tusks and worked ivory at the Hong Kong International Airport during a planned operation from December 13 to 15. The items were found in the check-in baggage of 14 persons from three in-bound flights from Dubai and Johannesburg.

The cases were referred to the Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department (AFCD) for follow-up action.

Seven travellers, comprising four men and three women aged between 24 and 48, were immediately prosecuted and appeared in court on December 14 and today (December 16).

Under the Protection of Endangered Species of Animals and Plants Ordinance (Cap 586), any person found guilty of importing, exporting, re-exporting or possessing any endangered species without a licence is liable to a maximum fine of $5 million, imprisonment for two years and mandatory forfeiture of the specimens. The public are reminded to comply with the regulations.

To enquire about the import of endangered species and report illegal import cases, the public can call 1823 or visit the website www.cites.hk.

Ivory: Africa’s New Blood Diamond

The Politic (The Yale Undergraduate Journal of Politics)
August 13, 2013

Elephant and rhino poaching is a hard-to-detect funding source for African terrorism.
By Adira Levine

As the international financial community implements electronic regulatory measures to identify and stymie terror financing, a funding source for African terrorism has emerged that is far less detectable by computerized systems: elephant and rhino poaching.

Armed rebel groups and government militias have cashed into the lucrative profits ivory yields in worldwide markets, particularly in Asia. Although the 1989 Convention on International Trade of Endangered Species prohibits the ivory trade, the poaching of elephants and rhinos in Africa funds international terrorism and risks driving the animals to extinction.

According to the World Wildlife Fund, poachers kill an estimated 30,000 elephants every year for their ivory tusks. Armed poachers encircle and shoot animals from helicopters as forces on the ground approach to cut off the ivory and leave the carcasses to rot. Much of the activity occurs in Central Africa, where regions such as Congo’s Garamba National Park are home to concentrated elephant populations. African governments, often battling corruption and lacking strong local infrastructure, have struggled to combat the practice. In some countries, such as Congo and Uganda, government armies themselves perpetrate poaching activities.

In addition to government militias, African rebel groups are also frequent poachers, using the profits to acquire weapons and ammunition. The Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA), notorious for abducting children, raping women, and pillaging communities, uses poaching profits to support warlord Joseph Kony. Darfur’s Janjaweed and Somalia’s Al-Shabaab, the latter of which is a branch of Al-Qaeda, also conduct some of the most active rebel poaching activity. These groups have contributed to genocide, violence, and instability within Africa, as well as support for terrorism beyond the continent.

Jonathan Hutson, Enough Project spokesman and author of “Kony’s Ivory,” told The Politic that the organized, global structure of the ivory trade has made curbing the practice a multi-faceted and cross-jurisdictional effort.

“International criminal syndicates, aided by corrupt officials, broker the multi-billion dollar black market in wildlife trafficking, which ties consumers in Asia to suppliers in Africa,” Hutson said. “We must understand the entire supply chain, including who brokers the global trafficking routes between the demand side and the supply.”

The New York Times reports that an estimated 40 tons of ivory were poached and shipped from Africa in 2011. Using routes common to illicit drug trafficking, smugglers transport the ivory to coastal ports where goods often depart uninspected. The vast majority of the ivory arrives in China, where it sells for up to $1,300 per pound. Demand is fueled by a rising middle class, a desire for status symbols, and a belief that ivory talismans cure disease. With ivory tusks weighing over 100 pounds apiece, every poached elephant represents a sizable profit – and a potential boon to terror activity.

“The risk/reward equation remains heavily stacked in favor of poachers, and will only move in favor of conservationists when BOTH the demand and supply side dynamics are successfully addressed,” Richard Vigne, CEO of Ol Pejeta Conservancy, a Kenyan wildlife conservancy, told The Politic. “However, the primary driver of both elephant and rhino poaching remains demand from the Far East.”

Poaching also depletes endangered animal populations and the ecosystems they help support. From 2002 to 2011, the number of Central African elephants fell by 62 percent. Conservation groups warn that forest elephants, which help maintain forest density and facilitate the passage and feeding patterns of other wildlife, may be on the brink of extinction. Furthermore, wildlife populations and safe areas for tourist viewing provide many African countries with a major source of revenue, now at risk due to poaching.

In the absence of wide-scale, effective efforts by African governments to curb poaching, international governments and advocacy organizations have increased their roles. U.S. non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and the U.S. federal government have encouraged LRA defections through airdropping over 700,000 leaflets and deploying 100 American military personnel for non-combat support to African troops. Over the past five years, USAID contributions to combat wildlife trafficking globally totaled 24 million dollars. As U.S. Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton pledged American support for a global wildlife enforcement system to protect endangered species.

Another new strategy includes using unarmed aerial vehicles to monitor the areas where poaching often occurs and to provide real-time information to authorities to intercept poachers. Google has donated $5 million to the World Wildlife Fund for one such program.

Other African organizations purchase their own drones to protect against poaching. Kenya’s Ol Pejeta Conservancy, home to a large black and white rhino population, was the target of a poaching incident in March 2013. The conservancy raised funds to purchase a drone from an American company, received in July 2013.

The deterrent effect of drones “will play a major role in making people rethink the balance between risks and benefits when poaching,” explained Robert Breare, Ol Pejeta Commercial Director, to The Politic. “[Drones] are not a ‘silver-bullet’ solution, but rather an addition to the armory against what is becoming an increasingly sophisticated and professional poaching onslaught.”

While efforts to combat poaching continue to evolve, critics argue that the U.S. and the international community must dedicate more resources and broaden their tactics to fully address the poaching epidemic. As some of Africa’s most violent militias increasingly derive financial support from the sale of ivory, poaching poses not only an ecological danger, but also a threat to regional and global security.