A Kenya Wildlife Service officer numbers elephant ivory tusks on July 3, 2013 after a container destined to Malasyia full of tusks was seized in a private yard at the ports of Mombasa. (Ivan Lieman/AFP/Getty Images)
NAIROBI, Kenya — Militant groups in Central and East Africa are cashing in on the lucrative ivory trade to fund their operations across the continent, threatening both regional security and the survival of Africa’s endangered elephants.
Demand from increasingly affluent Chinaand Southeast Asian nations has driven a surge in elephant poaching in recent years, leading to the deaths of tens of thousands of the animals annually, wildlife monitoring groups say.
But in a new development, armed insurgent groups like Uganda’s brutal Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA), Somalia’s Qaeda-linked Al Shabaab and Sudan’s Janjaweed militia are joining organized criminal networks as major players in the illicit trade.