Crisis in Africa
The most immediate critical threat for African elephants, rhinos, apes and other endangered wildlife is large-scale poaching and the organized networks and trafficking that generate it. Although national laws and international treaties throughout their range protect threatened species, the enforcement of these laws has historically been very weak if existing at all and has provided little or no deterrent value. In fact, the problem of weak law enforcement and judiciary ineffectiveness is one of the most serious underlying causes perpetuating the increase in poaching in particular and wildlife crime in general. The main reason for the lack of enforcement and application of the wildlife law throughout Africa is the widespread corruption.
Consequently the illicit trade and the associated wildlife massacres are commonplace. Illegal wildlife trade currently amounts to $7-10 billion per year and ranks fifth globally in terms of value after drugs, people, oil and counterfeiting. A recent study showed that around 100,000 elephants were killed for their tusks between 2010 and 2012 across Africa. Great apes remain threatened by the illegal trade. The western black rhino is already extinct in Central Africa, as is the northern white rhino – a reminder of the urgency. The EAGLE Network began in Central Africa, yet quickly spread into West Africa. Almost 2/3 of Central Africa’s elephants are believed to have been lost due to the illegal ivory trade and elephants from the sub-region are trafficked out in large numbers via West Africa as well as East Africa, and often on to Asia. The wildlife traffickers at all of these levels are well organized in international criminal syndicates that often participate in other illegal activities, including narcotics and weapons, sometimes with links to terrorist networks. While international media focuses on poachers, traffickers still live largely in impunity across the globe and continue to operate in this low-risk environment.
The EAGLE Network aims to protect elephants, apes, rhinos and other threatened wildlife species in key African countries from this large-scale poaching, by increasing the level of wildlife law enforcement in each country and deterring would-be poachers and traffickers from conducting these activities.
The countries covered by this initiative are key to combating the illegal wildlife trade, either by holding fragile populations of elephants, apes or other threatened species or, more importantly, by playing a central role in trafficking endangered populations beyond their borders. As the illegal trade is transnational in nature, these centers are often away from the source countries and consequently there is an urgent need to address the problem of wildlife law enforcement at multiple levels; national, regional and international, as many wildlife crimes are carried across international borders.