A mahogany table or an ivory bracelet we flaunt are a source of income for terrorism too. The jihad that has sown death in European cities is not fed by oil commerce and raids alone. It has found a very rich source of income also in illegal trade of rare animal and plant species. Estimates produced by world bodies that monitor this phenomenon report a turnover of about 20 billion dollars a year. Specifically, 826 million is the value of the trade of alive animals, 40 million – that of traditional medicine, 2 billion – fashion and furnishing, 705 – feeding, 250 – alive plants, 11 million – forest products.
Ivory trade seems to be one of the primary financing sources of the armed groups that are connected in different ways, Al Qaeda and ISIS terrorists, but not only. The profits from this illicit trafficking constitutes also a considerable part of the revenue of the irregular militias in many African countries. The study carried out by Interpol and by the State Forestry explains that besides provoking permanent damage to the planet’s biodiversity, violence on nature is a source of profit for international terrorism. A real slap in the face of nature. Racketeering related to illegal animal and plant trade, as well as to the sale of products derived from them, exceeds 20 billion dollars a year, up to 200 billion if we consider also timber trafficking and illegal fishing (source: UNEP).
The study and resistance to the phenomenon of Wildlife Trafficking is carried out by Wildlife Crime, but also the staff of the Italian Forest Guard is involved in it, committed not only on an international level, but is also in the frontline on a national level against the illicit trafficking of disappearing species of animals and plants. CITES Service (Convention on International Trade of disappearing animal and plant species) of the Forest Guard through its 28 Operating Cores and 27 Territorial Services has carried out only in 2015 on the entire national territory 65,779 investigations, including 64,129 at the Customs and 1,650 in Italy. Among the main species under control there are turtles, parrots, primates, big cats, boas and diurnal and nocturnal raptors. There are almost 200 seizures resulting from the dispute of 70 detected criminal offenses and 94 administrative offenses. The value of the seized goods amounts to about 1 million euros.
Groups such as Boko Haram are leading the business of extermination of rhinos and elephants in order to sell ivory tusks and horns, materials that are highly appreciated in Asia. A tusk of “white gold” can reach the price of $ 3,500, while a horn can be sold for 400 thousand dollars on the illegal Asian market. The same is true for crocodile skins and vicuna blades. Shatush scarves that Western women love to wear – made of the wool of Tibetan antelope – can yield twenty thousand dollars to the terrorists. In Africa, the business includes also the production of charcoal, a source of income for the Somalian jihadi group Al Shabab. Intelligence sources have discovered that the September 2013 attack on the Westgate commercial center in Nairobi at the hand of Al Shabab was largely financed by smuggling ivory coming from elephants killed in the African reserves. Terrorist groups control also the management of forest resources, asking protection money for cutting down some of the most precious kinds of wood such as rosewood, mahogany, and teak.
According to WWF’s report “Nature Connection”, illegal trade of protected species is the second reason of the extinction of different species (after habitat destruction), and is also a global phenomenon that feed wars, terrorism, and corruption producing localized suffering, poverty, and oppression.