Wildlife, globalization, and resource wars

Diamonds, cocaine, coltan, oil and timber are valuable resources that finance armed groups that blur the distinction between gangs, rebels, and mafias.  Now WRI Earthtrend’s writes that the Illegal Animal Trade Finances War in Africa:

Illegal animal trade, once a high-profile environmental concern, has largely taken a back seat to climate change, habitat destruction, and pollution as a threat to biodiversity. Despite being out of the spotlight, however, so-called wildlife trafficking is a big business. The U.S. Department of State estimates that black-market trade in illegal ivory, snake skins and venoms, live birds, primates, tiger parts, rhino horns, and other wildlife and wildlife products generates between 10 and 20 billion dollars per year. China is the number one destination for such products; the U.S. is number two.The targeted animals are increasingly threatened by poaching, and many are critically endangered in the wild. But species conservation isn’t the only reason that wildlife trafficking has been drawing increased attention recently. Rather, the alarm is of a relatively new sort: national security.

The black market trade in endangered animals, once a crime committed by small groups of local poachers, has become dominated by organized crime syndicates. Like the conflict diamond trade that has funded brutal wars in Sierra Leone, trade in wildlife provides a steady stream of unreported money–some of which, it seems clear, is supporting civil war and terrorist organizations.

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