The war against poaching doesn’t have to suffer the same failures as the war on drugs. But on its current course, American foreign policy risks failure at a time of unprecedented poaching across Africa.
In a Monday oped for the Los Angeles Times, WildAid CEO and co-founder Peter Knights argues that the administration’s implementation plan for its "National Strategy for Combating Wildlife Trafficking" may compromise much-needed efforts to measurably reduce global demand for rhino horn, elephant ivory and other wildlife products by failing to marshall adequate resources.
Whether Thandi and her new calf will be enduring symbols of survival or merely a blip of good news in the tragic war against brutal rhino poaching has yet to be seen. Despite hundreds of South African National Defence Force troops and sophisticated drone technology being deployed to intercept poachers in South Africa’s parks, numbers of dead rhino continue to increase. A record 1,215 rhinos were illegally killed in that country last year, up from 1,004 in 2013 and 668 in 2012. The high prices paid for rhino horn on black markets in China and Vietnam are financing corruption and sophisticated international criminal networks that are very difficult to defeat as we have in the “war on drugs.”
A precipitous spike in rhino and elephant poaching has dominated environmental news headlines in recent weeks, with record numbers of rhinos killed in South Africa last year and sting operations in multiple African nations uncovering elephant ivory bound for Asian markets.
But look closer at the coverage, and you may also read about one obscure animal equally imperiled by the illegal wildlife trade — and a fraction the physical size of these megafauna.