Still hiding out from authorities, the infamous Joseph Kony and his Lord’s Resistance Army are now making a living in central Africa by poaching and trafficking some of Africa’s most iconic species.
The new report, published by the wildlife trade monitoring agency TRAFFIC, details how the area incorporating the Democratic Republic of Congo (DCR), Central African Republic, and Sudan has become rife with the illegal wildlife trade, as armed groups fund their activities through the slaughter and sale of elephants, chimpanzees, hippopotamuses, and giraffes, among other animals.
Inevitably, the populations of these species have taken a shocking hit. In Garamba National Park alone, which is located in the DCR, the number of elephants crashed from over 20,000 in the 1960s to just 1,500 today. The situation with rhinos in the park is worse, as the poor animals have now been hunted to extinction.
Despite being wanted for war crimes and crimes against humanity by the International Criminal Court for ordering the abduction of children to become child soldiers and sex slaves, the United States and Uganda ended their hunt for Kony earlier this year. It is now thought that there are only around 100 men left in the Lord’s Resistance Army, and so they no longer pose any significant threat to the stability of Uganda.
Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for wildlife.
“This region is perhaps the most remote and underdeveloped on the continent,” says co-author Liz Williamson in a statement. “The lack of governance and enforcement has rendered local communities and wildlife an easy target for exploitation by armed groups, while illegal wildlife trade fuels continued instability across the landscape.”
Along with the Lord’s Resistance Army, there are a number of other militia groups (such as the Janjaweed) that are known to poach wildlife across central Africa. But there are also serious concerns about the corruption of state officials in the region, which has become an impediment to law enforcement. Some of these people, such as the DRC State military, are even directly implicated in poaching and trafficking.
The biggest threat to the wildlife in central Africa is coming from Sudan and South Sudan, as the brutal civil war and following fighting has created much instability. Militia are known to conduct cross-border raids into national parks to shoot elephants for their ivory, even using helicopters to do so.
The report highlights how wildlife crime and trafficking is now a major income source for many militia groups and terrorist organizations, including Boko Haram in Niger. Securing the security and stability of the countries in which they operate can therefore have the joint benefit of protecting both citizens and wildlife.