Weak governance and poverty, inadequate natural resource management and increasingly sophisticated crime networks are some of the primary reasons for active ivory trafficking, the report states.
Poaching rings are run like sophisticated, established businesses, making it tough for many national law enforcement agencies to catch or prevent poaching in time.
Elephant ivory, in addition to rhino horns and tiger products, is among the most sought-after poached items in the world. According to the World Wildlife Fund, poaching is the fifth most profitable illicit trade in the world, estimated at up to $10 billion annually.
But protecting the African elephant has much wider implications than preserving the species. For example, it promotes biodiversity and conducive habitats for several other species, and aids tree species with seed dispersal and germination. It also helps maintain a robust tourism industry, which is vital to rural communities that derive thousands of jobs and livelihoods by working in tourism or other supporting industries such as food and transport that are more sustainable and have greater growth potential.
There is a growing arsenal of partnerships and treaties to tackle wildlife crime: The multilateral treaty known as the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), which entered in force in 1975, has 181 signatories and aims to ensure that international trade in specimens of wild animals and plants does not threaten the survival of species. CITES parties banned trade in ivory in 1990. The World Bank is also a member of the International Consortium on Combating Wildlife Crime (ICCWC), a collaborative effort led by CITES to bring coordinated support to national wildlife law enforcement agencies and networks that act in defense of natural resources, taking into consideration the need to provide livelihood support to poor and marginalized rural communities, and will work with partners to ensure a successful implementation of a new $90 million Global Partnership on Wildlife Conservation and Crime Prevention for Sustainable Development.
The report however hones in on a current gap in the fight against elephant poaching. It suggests that achieving success requires a professional criminal intelligence capacity that leverages knowledge and the latest technology available in law enforcement tactics such as forensics and that INTERPOL is the agency best suited to guide the effort.
INTERPOL, which has 190 member countries, is already working along these lines with initiatives like Project Wisdom, which aims to strengthen law enforcement capacity to protect elephants and rhinoceros in Africa, said Deon Burger, a representative of INTERPOL’s Environmental Security Sub-Directorate.
“The elephant crime report essentially reflects how we think we can tackle the problem. Now, we have to move forward and ask ourselves – how do we get there?” Burger said.
The key aim of the intelligence-led approach would be:
- Establish and develop requisite skills and procedures for evidence-based information and intelligence collection and exploitation on elephant poaching, ivory trafficking, and interrelated crime in and from Africa.
- Generate and gather actionable intelligence on international criminal networks and individuals involved in ivory poaching and trafficking in and from Africa.
- Identify, disrupt, and dismantle the transnational organized criminal networks involved in elephant poaching, ivory trafficking, and interrelated crime and trafficking in and from Africa.
- Enhance global situational awareness of these crime types.
- Support INTERPOL member country–led operations/investigations that result in the arrests and prosecutions of priority targeted offenders.
- Build a national-level intelligence system and capacity building over three to five years.