The Wildcat Foundation


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The natural world is experiencing huge and accelerating losses of valuable biodiversity due to the relentless growth and impact of human populations around the globe. Nowhere is this more apparent than in Africa, which among its many other conservation challenges, is now experiencing extinction-threatening levels of poaching, including to feed the illegal worldwide trade in elephant ivory and rhino horn.

The growth in elephant and rhino poaching is a result particularly of growing demand in China and other Asian nations, and is being advanced by international criminal syndicates energized by a large gap between enormous profits on the one hand, and comparatively small expenses, risks and penalties on the other. And evidence suggests that terrorist and rebel para-military groups, particularly in Central Africa, are increasingly turning to elephant poaching and the illegal trade in ivory and other wildlife resources to finance their illegal activities.

Africa’s conservation forces, which were already stretched beyond their capacity to protect the continent’s iconic wildlife, are finding it near impossible to cope with the escalation in poaching that seems increasingly to be more paramilitary in form, conducted by larger, better armed and trained forces capable of exploiting wildlife across multi-country regions, and connected to an expanding and more sophisticated worldwide illegal trade network. The new trends accentuate the conservation penalties inherent in the fact that most African countries have long-standing problems of internal corruption related to trade in wildlife contraband, generally weak laws regarding poaching and wildlife trade, minimal capability to enforce the laws available, and little practice at wildlife law enforcement cooperation across the same borders the poachers and illegal trade networks cross with comparative ease.

These enormous and complex problems seriously challenge existing wildlife protection paradigms in Africa and call for much more extensive, comprehensive and creative responses.