Declaring War on the Illegal Wildlife Trafficking Trade

BY NICHOLAS ESSER – Miami, with its proximity to Latin America, has long been considered a busy port for wildlife trafficking according to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Last month the United Nations Security Council came out with two significant resolutions that could potentially affect Miami’s status as a point of entry for illicit wildlife such as venomous reptiles, exotic birds, and even tigers. These resolutions were supported by wildlife conservationists as critical steps to reducing the destruction of important ecosystems and stemming the decline in the population of ivory bearing animals. The two resolutions intensified sanctions for those guilty of trading in illegal wildlife trafficking. One resolution focused on the Central African Republic while the other focused on the Democratic Republic of Congo.  However, other groups supported this move as well, and they are not ones typically found fervently supporting a wildlife resolution.

Defense minded anti-terrorism groups also applauded the passage of these resolutions. The sanctions are pointed at a key artery of terrorist groups – the monetary one. The intended terrorist groups include outfits such as the rebel armies in the Democratic Republic of Congo and the Lord’s Resistance Army; as well as Somalia’s Al-Shabaab Islamist militant group and Sudan’s fearsome Janjaweed militia. In fact the ivory trade is extremely lucrative, as ivory can fetch up to $2,000 per kilo on the black market and over 20,000 elephants are killed in Africa per year. Some sources report that up to three tons of ivory was bought and sold every month through a coordinated supply chain. This would bring in around $72,000 per year for just one group of terrorist to just one sales point.

Under the resolutions, the council can slap sanctions, such as freezing assets or restricting travel, on any individual found to be involved in wildlife trafficking. The UN Security Council resolution also renewed an arms embargo on various militia groups. This is a critical step in battling the finances of terror groups in the African region. Just three days ago Al-Shabaab terrorist killed seven Somalis with a remote-controlled bomb aimed at a United Nations convoy that missed and tore through cars and teashops just outside the capital’s international airport. Proving that even if the collateral damage is high, groups like Al-Shabaab are willing to strike highly secured transports of peacekeepers. Groups such as these are difficult to counter and are the reason that United States Armed Forces remain in the Middle East and why United Nations Peace Keepers continue a presence in highly volatile regions in Africa.

The continuing conflict is ongoing and will continue into the unforeseen future, but with these new sanctions available perhaps counter terrorist groups will be able to put more pressure on terrorist. Without the funds, which pay forty cents on the dollar of militant’s salaries, hopefully the groups will not be able to fund themselves properly and can be eliminated once and for all. However, corruption is rampant in those countries and enforcement of these new sanctions will be the next major hurdle to be overcome.

There are other possible ramifications of these laws, ones that hit very close to home here in Miami. In response to these new resolutions from the United Nations, the United States has also been stepping up its regulations around trafficking of illicit animal contraband. Indeed, Miami is a hot spot for the trafficking of outlawed animals as the United States is the second-largest consumer of illegally trafficked animal products in the world. Additionally, with the Secretary of State Kerry putting pressure on markets in China, the traffickers will look for markets elsewhere. With the rest of the world reinvigorating its initiative to hurt traffickers and the actions it finances, the United States must also work to shut its ports to trafficked goods. We need to work harder to stop financing the opposition in our war on terror.

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