Wednesday, December 26, 2012

CITES Accepts Security Council's Demand for Action on LRA-related Elephant Poaching

Top: Conference scene involving members of CITES and the United Nations. Bottom left: A member of the LRA. Bottom right: LRA members and a poached elephant carcass.

It has been recently announced that the head of a treaty supported by the United Nations for endangered species conservation has accepted the Security Council's demand for an inspection into the involvement of the Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) in the poaching of African elephants. According to John E. Scanlon, Secretary-General of the Convention on International Trade of Endangered Species (CITES), the historic demand strengthens concerns about the connections between the illegal wildlife trafficking and Africa's regional security. He further added that the CITES Secretariat is prepared to work with its associates to reinforce efforts to inspect the involvement of LRA's rebel militias in crimes against wildlife. In an authoritative statement announced last week, the Security Council demanded the United Nations and the African Union to cooperatively inspect the LRA's logistical patchworks and likely sources of illegal financing, which includes reputed involvement in elephant poaching and affiliated smuggling.
Flag of the LRA

According to a CITES news release, some African countries are currently experiencing a serious surge in illicit killing of elephants and rhinos and the trade in ivory and horns. Data assembled from the CITES' Monitoring the Illegal Killing of Elephants (MIKE) program proposes a continuous increase in levels of elephant killings since 2006, with 2011 having the highest levels of poaching since the records began in 2002. These discoveries are backed by information from the Elephant Trade Information System, which proves that 2011 was the worst year on record for ivory seizures. Furthermore, the bloodthirsty killings of elephants are progressively involving organized crime and in some cases armed militias. One case was seen earlier this year in Cameroon's Bouba N'Djida National Park, where up to 450 elephants were ruthlessly slaughtered by rebel groups from Chad and Sudan. According to CITES, the poached ivory is considered to be exchanged ammunition, money, and weapons to support civil conflicts in the neighboring countries. Another similar case took place in April this year at Garamba National Park in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, in which 22 elephants were killed supposedly from a helicopter.

I'm glad to see that the UN Security Council's call for investigating the LRA's involvement in Africa's elephant poaching has been welcomed by CITES. The LRA has gained widespread notoriety in Africa and around the world since its formation in Uganda during the 1980s. For fifteen years, this militant movement has carried out attacks against innocent civilians and security forces before being removed from its birthplace in 2002. Since then, the movement shifted its activities to neighboring countries like the Central African Republic, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and South Sudan. Members of this barbaric group are infamous for conducting bloodthirsty deeds such as massacres in villages, mutilating their victims, kidnapping young boys to be used as child soldiers, and forcing girls into sexual slavery. As part of its statement last week, the Security Council strongly outlawed LRA's continuous attacks and savagery, and proposed that the UN regional strategy made to combat the threat be put into action as soon as possible. I very much hope that this strategy be carried out since the LRA has been and still is terrorizing the countries where it has established itself since its eviction from Uganda ten years ago. These cruel and bloodthirsty cutthroats, along with their rebel counterparts in other parts of Africa, are a threat to both the human kind and wildlife. Swift action must be taken against this ongoing carnage.

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