The Environmental Crime Crisis

Exploitation of natural resources during conflicts Parks, biodiversity hotspots, and other vulnerable habitats are increasingly being exploited by poachers, including a range of militias and other non-state armed groups. These groups raise funds through the exploitation of wildlife resources including ivory, rhinoceros horn, tiger pelts, shahtoosh (wool from the Chiru or Tibetan antelope ( Pantholops hodgsonii ), and timber. Throughout Central and Southern Africa, armed groups capi- talize on poaching and timber exploitation to fuel a variety of armed movements. The Sudanese Janjaweed and the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) poach elephants throughout Central Africa and neighboring countries. Dozens of militia groups kill elephants and hippopotamuses, harvest timber, and produce or tax charcoal, all to finance conflict in the Democratic Republic of Congo and in neighboring countries. The Mozambican National Resistance (RENAMO) has been accused of poaching elephants and rhinos to fund their resurgent insurgency. 53 Likewise in Asia, exploitation of wildlife supports a number of non-state armed groups. Al Qaeda affiliated local Bangla- deshi separatists and other tribal militias in India have been reported to be implicated in the illegal trade in ivory, tiger pelts, and rhino horns in Southeast Asia. 54 Al Qaeda and the Haqqani network have been accused of raising funds through timber exploitation and trade. 55

Despite the increased awareness of the connections between wildlife crime and threat finance this is not a new phenom- enon. Criminals may also exploit ongoing conflicts, blaming fighting parties for the poaching, or the other way around. Typi- cally, armed militias try to take control over valuable natural resources in their territory and will fiercely oppose anyone interfering or competing. However, the farther other poachers or criminals are from the centre of conflict zones, the more likely is the probability that they will blame the illegal exploita- tion of natural resources also on fighting parties, especially as terrorists and militias are unlikely to counter the accusations. As many as 40% of intrastate conflicts over the past sixty years have been linked to natural resources. 56 Of the 34 biodi- versity hotpots identified across the world, 80% saw signifi- cant conflict during roughly the same period. 57 In the 1970s, over 100,000 elephants were allegedly killed to fund civil wars in Angola and Mozambique. 58 Charles Taylor utilized timber as a key source of funding in all phases of Liberia’s civil war. 59 Timber resources helped fund the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia, and played a role in conflicts in Burma, Cote d’Ivoire, and the Democratic Republic of Congo. 60

Armed groups make money through: direct control of resources such as timber concessions; leasing concessions


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