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Ivory trafficking, transnational organized criminal networks in eastern and southern Africa, 2009–2020, and the emerging new threat

by Dan Stiles

Abstract

Beginning in 2008 the poaching rate of elephants and rhinos began to rise noticeably in eastern and southern Africa. The poaching intensified considerably 2010–2014. Along with the poaching increase, illegal exports of ivory and rhino horn also surged. Pangolin scales and parts of predator cats were often included with ivory and/or rhino horn exports. The great majority of these products were smuggled to Southeast Asia and China. To extract in the field or acquire illegally from government stockpiles and transport increasingly large quantities of ivory and rhino horn to exit ports in all four subregions of sub-Saharan Africa required considerable organization and logistical capabilities on the part of the traffickers. The transnational organized crime (TOC) networks became more organized and larger from about 2009 to late 2014, when significant arrests began of key actors. This review describes five of the main networks, key actors in each and their disruption.

These arrests and sometimes prosecutions disrupted the operations of the networks and even caused shifts in some cases of home bases and export ports. These disruptions have resulted in significant declines in poaching rates of both elephants and rhinos and product prices in recent years from the 2011–2015 peak years, although other factors were also at play. There is evidence that some members of the networks cooperated with more than one network in supplying products and enabling export and transport to destinations in eastern Asia, indicating that the networks are fluid and adaptable.

A new TOC network is emerging that operates in southern, Central and West Africa. Investigations are urgently needed to identify key members and disrupt it in order to avoid a renewed pachyderm holocaust.

The PDF can be read here: Ivory trafficking, transnational organized criminal networks in eastern and southern Africa, 2009–2020, and the emerging new threat

Moazu Kromah's phone network as detailed in the March 2021 report, sponsored by Basel Institute on Governance and entitled: “Working Paper #35 - Social network analysis applied to illegal wildlife trade between East Africa and South East Asia”, authored by Jacopo Costa. N1 in the centre is Kromah.
Each square represents an ivory seizure. Tanzania is coloured brown and Kenya is directly above. The date, location and size of each seizure is in the bottom left corner. The blue dots represent the origin of the dead elephants (ivory). All lines/arrows represent seizures with genetic/direct matches to other seizures. The four seizures with #1 in top corner are linked through other evidence. “Combating Transnational Organized Crime by Linking Multiple Large Ivory Seizures to the Same Dealer” - Dr. Sam Wasser et al

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