… to when the first advertisement I saw in Asia (Bangkok, Thailand) was an anti-elephant poaching ad by Yao Ming. After four months of research on the intersections of elephant poaching, the illicit ivory trade, and terrorist groups last fall, this was super exciting! And there were more ads like this one, but with more educational information about the origins of ivory, throughout Suvarnabhumi Airport.
As I mentioned in a recent post, the African elephant poaching crisis is reaching a tipping point, where more elephants are being killed each year than being born. Some argue that African elephants may be extinct in the wild within 10 years.
The African elephant (Loxodonta africana) is a keystone species, meaning it is an integral part of the ecosystem, and if it goes extinct, the ecosystem will change drastically. Unfortunately, African elephants are threatened by multiple factors, including poaching and habitat loss, and are critically endangered.
Poaching fuels, and is fueled by, the international ivory trade, which is primarily linked to China, the United States, and Thailand. Ivory is coveted all over the world, but particularly in East Asia, as trinkets, jewelry, and religious symbols.
African elephant poaching is incredibly lucrative and, in part, fuels terrorism because terrorist networks control much of the poaching and trade. These terrorist organizations create instability in Africa and have global connections, making this an international security issue.
This is a complex issue and necessitates extraordinary cooperation on an international scale in order to prevent the extinction of this majestic species and continued attacks from terrorist groups funded by illicit ivory.
If you would like to learn more, I recommend these reports as further reading:
- United Nations Environment Program: The Environmental Crime Crisis
- Convention on the International Trade in Endangered Species: Elephants in the Dust: The African Elephant Crisis
- United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime: Guidelines on Methods and Procedures for Ivory Sampling and Laboratory Analysis
- TRAFFIC: Polishing Off Ivory: Survey’s of Thailand’s Ivory Market
- Environmental Investigation Agency: Vanishing Point: Criminality, Corruption and the Devastation of Tanzania’s Elephants
It’s almost Friday! I hope you enjoy this hilarious and incredibly informative video. In this clip, Jon Stewart of the Daily Show explains the dire situation facing African elephants and the shady relationship between the illegal ivory trade and terrorist organizations such as Boko Haram, al Shabaab, and al-Qaeda.
The video speaks for itself. I especially enjoyed it because I am writing a policy brief on the international security implications of elephant poaching and the illegal ivory trade for a class called Global Resource Politics. Humor is often a necessary antidote to traumatic topics.