Making a Killing: The Nexus of Terrorism and Wildlife Trafficking

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The role of wildlife trafficking in funding militancy and terrorism has received intense attention from conservationists globally as well as from members of the U.S. Congress. Yet the fact that some terrorist and militant groups have been involved in poaching of iconic species such as elephants for the illegal global wildlife trade has narrowed the policy focus so much that it threatens to overshadow the more pervasive causes of poaching and skew decision-making about solutions.

This focus on the link between wildlife trafficking and terrorism also has spurred the involvement of the U.S., British and other militaries in anti-poaching efforts and the transfer of ever-heavier weapons to rangers in Africa. National governments in wildlife-supply countries have cheered such approaches since they often prefer not to deal with the real elephant in the room: corruption among official environmental agencies, rangers, law enforcement institutions and prominent politicians, in addition to the involvement of local communities in poaching. Yet without rooting out this persistent corruption and addressing the economic incentives of local communities to participate in or tolerate poaching, the bush wars will be lost, no matter how heavy the rangers’ equipment.

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