The UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) has released a report, titled ‘Transnational Organized Crime in Eastern Africa: A Threat Assessment,’ which highlights the scale of ivory poaching and its threat to elephant populations in the region, among other issues.
Editors Note: The key finds of this report show that:
• Recent research indicates that the rate of poaching in Eastern Africa has increased, rising to levels that could threaten the local elephant population.
• The bulk of the large ivory shipments from Africa to Asia appears to pass through the container ports of Kenya and the United Republic of Tanzania, where interventions could be addressed.
• It is estimated that between 5,600 and 15,400 elephants are poached in Eastern Africa annually, producing between 56 and 154 metric tons of illicit ivory, of which two-thirds (37 tons) is destined for Asia, worth around US$30 million in 2011.
The report notes that Eastern Africa is a source of illicit ivory, but also an important transit area. Most of the recent large seizures of illicit ivory, of unknown origin, were exported from either Kenya or Tanzania. The publication highlights that the share of large seizures trafficked through these two countries appear to be growing.
While the African elephant is not currently deemed endangered, the species does face a reduction in genetic diversity, and decreases in populations could seriously undermine local tourism revenue. Finally, with armed groups crossing borders to raid elephant herds and the increased association of the ivory and arms trade, ivory poaching is claiming human lives, with rangers especially at risk.
The report suggests that illicit markets in Eastern Africa often originate or terminate on other continents, and in the case of ivory, this is primarily Asia. As a result, the report says that purely local interventions are inadequate to resolve the underlying problem, and calls for evaluating and addressing these markets at a global level, while strengthening local law enforcement to protect Eastern Africa.