Terrorist Poaching

The call of the wild from mammoth African elephants and rhinos has grown meek and blissfully silent.

The culprit: outlaw terrorists who are tracking and hunting down these massive creatures to fund their filthy, lucre terrorist enterprises. Our enemy is sophisticated and well-funded, but their weapons, surveillance equipment and training, food, lodging, and travel cost a lot of money.

ISIS has a terrorist army that has raised billions of dollars through extortion, drugs, bank robbery, kidnapping, and oil smuggling, but there is one source of funding for terrorism that is being overlooked: poaching.

The illegal wildlife trade in Africa is a $7 to $10 billion a year business. According to the nonpartisan Congressional Research Service, a rhino horn sells for $65,000 a kilogram in Asia. That is more expensive than silver, gold, diamonds, or illicit drugs.

The number one buyer of ivory is none other than China. With big profits and high demand, poaching has risen dramatically.

Two-thirds of central Africa's forest elephants have been wiped out in the last 10 years. 100,000 elephants were killed in Africa between 2010 and 2012. In just those 10 years, central Africa has lost 64 percent of its elephants, according to National Geographic.

One of those elephants killed was Satao, pictured right above before he was killed. Satao was called by some as the world's biggest and largest elephant. Satao had tusks that reached to the ground, as you can see, but last June, he was found in a swamp, dead, killed for his tusks. He was 45 to 46 years old. The poachers finally got this old bull.

Terrorists have identified this lucrative industry of systematically killing African animals as another source of cash to fund their murderous enterprises. The al Qaeda affiliate al Shabaab generated between $200,000 and $600,000 a month from just tusks, according to the African Elephant Action League. The blood money accounted for as much as 40 percent of al Shabaab's total operating budget.

These terrorist poachers not only kill African animals, but they kill the wildlife wardens guarding them as well.

Other terrorist organizations implicated in the illegal poaching trade include Joseph Kony's Lord's Resistance Army in central Africa and Boko Haram in Nigeria.

Unsurprisingly, these terrorists have also taken advantage of the instability and corruption in African governments. Terrorists sell their bounties under the radar in the illicit market. The penalties for those caught poaching are minimal.

So for terrorists who are looking to avoid detection, make a lot of money, and not face consequences if caught, poaching is their grand bargain.

So what is being done? Our intelligence community has yet to establish a clear understanding of which terrorist groups are the most involved in poaching and who facilitates the worldwide transactions from Africa to other countries.

We need wildlife trackers to track the money trail and the destruction of these creatures. The administration needs to have a plan to stop this eradication of mammoth animals.

Multiple agencies from the State Department, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and others have been involved in efforts to eradicate poaching, but it appears no agency has taken the lead. Talk must turn to action.

Last February, the Presidential Task Force on Wildlife Trafficking issued a national strategy for combating wildlife trafficking, but there is no implementation plan. Nine months later, we are still waiting for a strategy to go into effect.

Meanwhile, endangered species are being slaughtered, like Satao, and terrorists are being paid from the sales of endangered species' tusks and horns.

Preserving endangered species is a noble goal, but the fact that killers worldwide are using this money to fund terrorism makes it even more urgent we stop this ruthless criminal conduct.

These terrorists kill animals, so they can get money to kill people. The combination of these two evils, the killing of endangered species and innocent civilians to further radical terrorism, is an international threat.

The world cannot allow radical Islamic terrorists to continue the wholesale slaughter of rhinos and elephants to fund their reign of terror. Make terrorists extinct, not these animals. Otherwise, the only rhinos and elephants our grandkids are going to see are the stuffed animals at Toys "R'" Us.

And that is just the way it is.




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