Wildlife trafficking is crime that when caught, unfortunately usually results in a slap on the wrist. As a result, its become a mainstay in funding shady groups like Al-Shabbab. Al-Shabbab is a Somalian militia group that swore fealty to Al-Qaeda. They were responsible for the attacks on the Westgate Mall in Nairobi last year. The Department of State estimated that poaching provides around 40% of their income.
As wildlife trafficking has become a more integral part of the funding strategy for groups like Al-Shabbab, enforcement has become more important. Groups in the United States have recognized this. The Presidential Task Force on Wildlife Trafficking in the United States has called for stricter enforcement and greater consequences for wildlife trafficking. The Clinton foundation has even unveiled an 80 million dollar program to combat the ivory trade.
Part of the problem fueling poaching issues is the lack of economic opportunity in areas where it persists. Park rangers who combat poachers are well armed and often given permission to kill on sight. This makes poaching a dangerous line of work. Poaching problems are indicative of the need for economic development. If I can make a reasonable living doing something where I’m not risking my life, I’m far less likely to risk it.