Imagine being able to track the poachers, illegal dealers, witch doctors, and cross-border smugglers illegally trading ivory? Well, National Geographic did just that and the GPS devices that they embedded in artificial tusks revealed that the harrowing ivory business is not only just poaching elephants at accelerating rates, but that ivory is the source of profits for some of Africa’s worst terrorist organisations.
It’s estimated that some 30,000 African elephants are killed each year by the hands of poachers to satisfy global demand for ivory, a demand that remains rife. In just one decade the African elephant population decreased by 64%. But it is not only the loss of these beautiful animals the international community should be worried about, but also the harrowing fact that the profits from this immoral trade support some of the most violent militias, terrorists, and paramilitary groups throughout eastern Africa.
Nat Geo’s maps also charts the Lord’s Resistance Army’s (LRA’s) killings as well as the reported locations of the LRA leader, Joseph Kony. The GPS devices in the elephant tusks showed repeated proximity of Kony, LRA murders, and locations where the GPS sensors stopped (presumably for trade).
Kony’s LRA is rebel group which has, since the 1980s sought to overthrow the Ugandan government to instate a zealous Christian theocracy. Kony’s personality cult has been accused of widespread human rights violations, including murder, abduction, mutilation, child-sex slavery, and forcing children to be soldiers.
Eliminating the illicit ivory trade could do more than protecting elephants, but could substantially cut the finances of some of sub-Saharan Africa’s most violent militias, warlords, and terrorist brutes.
Could park rangers embed GPS trackers into or onto their elephants’ tusks to deter would-be poachers from slaying these beautiful animals for their ivory?
With Kony's presence in Garamba, evidence of his men slaughtering elephants has become apparent around the park. Christy heard the clicking of guns while navigating the grasses, and carcasses lay near undetonated hand grenades. Kidnap victims even told stories of being fed elephant meat. Despite a team of armed men patrolling Garamba's front lines against Kony's men and other terrorist groups, Garamba has lost thousands of elephants since Kony moved in 2006, when 4,000 elephants prospered. Zakouma National Park in Chad has fared even worse: 90% of its population has been lost since 2002, most from 2005 to 2008 at the hands of poachers, according to Christy.