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How Ivory Smuggling Became Big Business in Central Africa

September 7, 2017

TRAFFIC, the wildlife trade monitoring network, published a new report on September 7, detailing findings from almost a decade of monitoring the ivory trafficking network. The report details a tragic history of how ivory smuggling in Central Africa became as lucrative of many international drug cartels.

Part of the 6 tonnes of confiscated ivory that were destroyed by the authorities in China. Credit: UNEP

Ivory is like a drug and you have to be careful with it. If you are serious and desire it, you can get all you want, but you have to be patient and act very carefully,” a Cameroonian man selling ivory items from a network of shops across Central Africa, told TRAFFIC investigators in 2014.

In the first comprehensive ivory market assessment in the region in nearly two decades, the TRAFFIC investigators posed as buyers at known and newly identified ivory markets and workshops across Cameroon, Central African Republic (CAR), Congo, Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) and Gabon: key source countries fuelling ivory trade in Africa and beyond. They also held consultations with major stakeholders, including government officials in all five countries.

The collective opinion they documented was a world where weak governance, corruption and shifting trade dynamics were highlighted as significant factors seriously undermining the control of ivory trafficking throughout the region.

According to the report’s authors: “enforcement efforts are hampered by corruption, often involving high-level governmental officials, insufficient human and financial resources, mismanagement and weak political will.”

In DRC, one ivory trader claimed to have a relative in the army who supplied him with raw ivory. He also alleged that the main suppliers are government officials and, to some extent, UN peacekeepers, who have the ability to move around the country frequently.

Also in DRC, researchers recorded well-informed claims that the FARDC, the country’s official army, was one of the main groups responsible for elephant poaching in Virunga National Park, with the ivory exported by the non-State “Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda” (FDLR).

The new report is available at http://www.traffic.org/home/2017/9/7/new-traffic-study-lifts-lid-on-central-africa-ivory-markets.html.

Copyright: Source: IPS Inter Press Service News Agency and Dr. Richard Thomas