Traditional Chinese Medicine Financing Terrorists

Poachers Pushing Wildlife Toward Extinction

The elephant poachers arrived on military helicopters, aided by night vision camera, the attacks opened up on the elephants with AK-47 assault weapons. It was a massacre.

The photograph is heart-wrenching and tragic. It is of elephant carcasses, some of 86 elephants slaughtered in Chad a few weeks ago. The victims included more than 30 pregnant females. Many aborted their calves when shot. The killers butchered some, and left the others to die slowly. The elephants huddled together helplessly for protection. They won’t abandon their fallen comrades to save themselves. It’s one of the most loyal and sensitive species on the planet.

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Unfortunately, organized and heavily armed poachers are decimating the forest elephant. Populations have declined 62 percent in ten years. Unless something changes, elephants are headed for extinction in the wild.

The Rhinoceros story is equally alarming. Poaching of South African rhinos up 50% since 2011 and 5000 percent since 2007. The market for their horns, which can fetch $30,000 apiece, more per gram than gold or cocaine. Asians, especially Vietnamese and Chinese, consume the horns believing them to be a palliative. Rhino populations have dropped 90% in just fifty years.

Some say the Vietnamese are worst. They’ve already slaughtered their own Javan rhinoceros to extinction. Now they’ve set their sights on Africa. One Vietnamese diplomat was caught on camera receiving a rhino horn in the parking lot of the embassy in Johannesburg. It’s not just Vietnamese or Chinese, though. The guilty users include Asian Americans.

wildlife conservation Tanzania

U.S. laws may be stricter in prohibiting importing elephant tusks or rhino horns, but penalties are light. Dealing in a kilo of cocaine can send you to the slammer for years. Dealing in a kilo of rhino horn powder? A meaningless fine.

At least the Chinese are trying to stop the trade in tusks and horns. Chinese film stars like Li Bingbing are warning against poaching. Apparently such efforts are deterring younger Chinese. But older generations – there and in countries like the U.S. — remain impervious. A strategic communication campaign aimed at changing social norms to make purchase of horn or tusk power socially unacceptable is important and must be launched. That’s merely one step in what needs to be a globally integrated, holistic approach that attacks the supply and the demand side of this illicit economy.

Conservation groups and some African governments have committed significant resources in an effort to disrupt the trade at the ground level, hiring and deploying thousands of park rangers and patrols into national parks, and using cameras, spy planes and even sending out drones to track the poachers.

“This approach is well intentioned,” says Gretchen Peters, but it will never be enough.” Author of Seeds of Terror, Peters is a recognized expert on terrorism finance and transnational crime networks.

“I believe it is vital to understand the complete logistical and financial picture of a transnational criminal organization in order to design a strategy that will strike at its heart,” she says. “We must attack the problem so it will reduce the earnings of the criminal leadership and significantly degrade that organization’s capacity to operate and to profit. We must start understanding and attacking criminal networks likes businesses, because that is what they are.”

poaching elephants for ivory

Experts agree that good ground enforcement can help reduce the flow of smuggled horns and tusks. But it’s too little. The supply chain crosses borders and most of the illicit profits are generated outside of Africa.

The slaughter is outrageous enough. But the story gets worse. It’s about more than consumers who believe (incorrectly) that rhino horn cures cancer and increases sexual potency.

The horn and tusk trade is merely one element of a broader scope of intertwined illegal activities in drug trafficking, arms smuggling, and money laundering. It all aims for the same goal: generating huge, illegal profits for criminals, who often provide funds that finance violent extremism. Those who bankroll these sophisticated quasi-military operations are international criminal networks, often working hand-in-hand with terror networks linked to or aligned with extremist groups.

International terrorists networks need more than ideology to function. They need money. That money, often laundered through legitimate fronts, helps recruiting. It helps terror networks subvert states, societies, and economies. It helps them move people and weapons through countries.

If we identify the networks and their leaders and follow the money, real action can be taken that deals these networks severe blows. We can find, follow and freeze bank accounts while employing a whole of government approach and cooperation with foreign partners to combat terrorist finance. But more is needed. A more telling move would be to drain those accounts and deprive criminal and terror networks of their cash.

That tactic unnerves U.S. Treasury officials, who opposed a similar approach in combating Mexican drug cartels. The last thing Treasury intends is to support terror networks. But the hard reality is that its posture affords transnational criminals and terror networks among its most powerful protections. It’s absurd. Even though President Barack Obama has announced a new policy of reducing drone attacks, legally, there’s no question that legal authority exists to kill Al Qaeda-linked terrorists who make war against the U.S. If we attack and kill terrorists – in operations that may unintentionally harm civilians – we can take non-kinetic action that deprives criminals and terrorists of their ability to function.

Peters made a huge impact with her excellent book, SEEDS OF TERROR, which examined the impact of the heroin trade in Afghanistan. She’s on the right track, seeking to identify the criminal networks that trade in horns and tusks. Mapping those will light the path to identifying the leaders who organize and run these networks, and their comrades who traffic in terror.

It’s a sensible approach to dealing a devastating blow against those who threaten the security of American families, and perversely turn human sensibility towards other species with whom we share this planet into a tragic travesty.

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Crossbow Communications specializes in issue management and public affairs. It’s also promoting forest conservation, reforestation, sustainable agriculture, and wildlife conservation through its subsidiary–Sacred Seedlings. Please contact Gary Chandler at to join our network.

Africa Lost At Least 745 Rhinos To Poachers in 2012

Rhino Poaching Up Drastically

Almost three percent of Africa’s rhino population was killed by poachers in 2012. The trend appears to be rising even faster. Experts predict that if poaching continues to increase at this rate, rhino populations could be wiped out within 10 years.

“Well-organized and well-funded crime syndicates are continuing to feed the growing black market with rhino horn,” says Mike Knight, Chairman of the IUCN SSC African Rhino Specialist Group, a group of rhino experts within IUCN’s Species Survival Commission. “Over the past few years, consumer use of rhino horn has shifted from traditional Asian medicine practices to new uses, such as to convey status. High levels of consumption – especially the escalating demand in Vietnam – threaten to soon reverse the considerable conservation gains achieved over the last two decades.”

wildlife conservation Africa

There are currently 5,055 Black Rhinoceros (Diceros bicornis) and 20,405 White Rhinoceros (Ceratotherium simum) in Africa. Although these numbers have increased slightly over the last two years, there is no room for complacency. In 2012, at least 745 rhinos were poached throughout Africa – the highest number in two decades – with a record 668 rhinos killed in South Africa alone. In 2013, one rhino has been lost to poaching every 11 hours since the beginning of the year – a rate that is higher than the average for 2012.

Illegal trade in rhino horn is coordinated by well-organized criminal syndicates which transport the horns primarily to Vietnam and China. Mozambique has also been identified as a key driver of poaching activities, with poachers making cross-border raids into the South African Kruger National Park, home to the world’s largest rhino population. Mozambique is also a major transit point for illegal horn to Asia.

IUCN experts call upon the international community – especially the key consumer and transit states such as Vietnam, China, Laos and Mozambique – to urgently address the crisis by strengthening and enforcing regional and international trade laws, particularly in relation to rhino horn.

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“The rhino community is encouraged by the signing of a recent Memorandum of Understanding between South Africa and Viet Nam to address the rhino poaching epidemic as well as other conservation issues,” says Simon Stuart, Chair of IUCN’s Species Survival Commission. “However, it needs to be reinforced with tangible government action on both sides. International and regional collaboration needs to be strengthened, as does sharing of information, intelligence and expertise to address wildlife crime issues.”

Updated facts on the rhino crisis come on the eve of the 16th meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) that will take place from March 3-14 in Bangkok, Thailand. Illegal rhino horn trade will be one of the many issues discussed at the meeting.

public relations firm and public affairs firm Denver and Phoenix

Crossbow Communications specializes in issue management and public affairs. It’s also promoting forest conservation, reforestation, sustainable agriculture, and wildlife conservation through its subsidiary–Sacred Seedlings. Please contact Gary Chandler at to join our network.

Orphaned Elephant In Kenya Adopted By Students In Minnesota

African Elephant Now A Pet Project

Second-grade students in Erin Rehnblom’s Otsego Elementary School class have a new pet, but not just any pet. They now have a pet elephant. Not in Otsego, Minnesota, but in Africa. And the children are using their new pet to learn about helping others.

The adoption story starts with Rehnblom’s uncle, Pat Sergott, who is working in Kenya, Africa. He recently visited an elephant orphanage, where on Jan. 26 he came across a baby elephant with a near-tragic story. Lamoyian was rescued from a man-made well and taken to the orphanage in Kenya.

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Sergott decided to adopt Lamoyian because he thought it was an amazing and unusual gift for his niece’s second-grade class. He in turn offered the elephant to the students to adopt. Rehnblom said the adoption not only helps the elephant, but also is teaching the students the importance of helping others.

“It is difficult for 7- and 8-year-olds to not be able to have a tangible gift; this is a great lesson,” she said.

She said the orphanage works hard to provide the best care for the elephants. Their handlers bottle feed the babies every three hours and sleep with them.

“Our adoption is not only exciting for my students, but it is helping to provide for the elephants,” said Rehnblom. “One of my students even asked if we could take a field trip to Africa and meet Lamoyian.”

Rehnblom said the class is able to track the elephant’s progress.

“We will get monthly diary entries from his handler, we will know what he is doing and how he is doing and we are also brainstorming other ways that we can help Lamoyian,” she said.

elephant conservation Tanzania

“I am totally inspired by the thought and uniqueness of this class pet,” Rehnblom said.

She said she had piranhas in her classroom the last two years but lost both this fall, and “I noticed how much the class missed having a pet. This project allows my students to have a global connection; they are able to have a personal connection to people and animals that live in Africa. The discussion and learning that have already begun is amazing.”

What could have been a tragedy is turning in to a wonderful story.

“This is the best class pet a teacher could have,” she said. “No clean up, no smell and you don’t have to come in and feed them on the weekends.”

One of her students put it this way: “Piranhas are cool … elephants are cooler!”