The rapidly escalating illegal trade in wildlife products across Africa is being used to fund civil conflicts and terrorist attacks according to a new report.
The World Wide Fund for Nature estimates the trade to be worth at least $19 billion per year, making it the fourth largest illegal trade globally after narcotics, counterfeiting and human trafficking.
“Much of the trade is run by sophisticated criminal networks with broad international reach. The profits from wildlife trafficking are used to purchase weapons, finance civil conflicts and underwrite terrorist-related activities,” the report Fighting Illicit Wildlife Trafficking notes.
In Africa, the species most threatened by the increasing illegal trade the mountain and lowland gorillas, the African white rhino and the African elephant.
According to Will Travers, chief executive of Born Free Foundation, up to 30,000 elephants a year are being killed to supply demand largely from China.
“No part of Africa is safe; the bloody ivory trade has reached new heights of destruction and depravity in 2012,” he said. “Across the continent, for the first time, the number of carcasses recorded as a result of poaching exceeds the number reportedly dying from natural causes.”