“PRESIDENT OBAMA and former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton recently stepped up the fight against poachers, who kill tens of thousands of animals worldwide every year, selling their body parts for enormous profits,” Ohan Bergenas, Rachel Stohl and Ochieng Adalaas write at nytimes.com. “As well as bringing much needed political focus to the issue, their efforts include more resources to train and equip anti-poaching forces.” And so President Obama’s written a check for $10 million to help African states combat poaching. But that’s just the start. “Another key to any anti-poaching strategy should be to equip law enforcement and other authorities with the technology necessary to counter high-tech poachers, who use helicopters, night-vision goggles and automatic weapons. The United States, for example, should work with African governments to deploy unarmed surveillance drones to track poachers and identify their illicit networks.” Because poaching is terrorism . . .
Although it is impossible to know for sure how much money flows to terrorists from poaching, some reports suggest that the monthly profit for Al Shabab from the illegal ivory trade alone is $200,000 to $600,000. In the case of the Lord’s Resistance Army, witnesses report that Joseph Kony, the group’s leader, ordered the shooting of elephants in order to trade their tusks for arms, cash, food and medical supplies.
I have no doubt that bad people profit from poaching. Bad people profit from every damn thing in Africa (and elsewhere). But while poachers may support terrorists (animal rights activists will argue that poachers are terrorists) militarizing the situation will accomplish sweet FA. Except arming African terrorists (through “seepage”). And strengthening authoritarian regimes. And increasing the scope, scale and activity of America’s industrial military complex.
For some reason, the anti-poaching Times’ trio forgot to mention the role “ethical hunting” can play in eliminating poaching. By funneling cold hard cash and nice warm meat to locals, licensed hunters empower the indigenous population to keep the poachers at bay (economic self-interest is a powerful thing). In fact, hunting should be centerpiece of any anti-poaching strategy. Unfortunately, it will be a cold day in the Sahara before Ms. Clinton or Mr. Obama sacrifice political posturing for practical solutions on this or any other issue.