President Obama’s recent trip to Africa was good news for the African people, but it was also good news for African wildlife. The President brought attention to the continent’s strong economic growth and called for investment in energy and other infrastructure to keep the economy growing. While in Tanzania, he pledged $10 million in training and technical support to combat wildlife poaching and to develop a national strategy on African wildlife trafficking by the end of the year.
Why the focus on wildlife?
In a series of recent blogs, Aid for Africa highlighted the devastation to the African elephant and rhino populations in the last few years. Global crime syndicates sell rhino horn and ivory to satisfy the unproven medicinal and cultural needs of the expanding Asian middle class. Experts say that the rampant illegal trade in rhino horn and ivory for Asian markets fuels trade in guns and drugs throughout the continent.
Can a focus on wildlife trafficking help stem the growing menace of these crime organizations as they spawn new illegal activities? The U.S. hopes so.
Aid for wildlife could not come at a better time, not only for the rhino and elephant, but also for Africa’s other endangered wildlife, particularly the lion. Panthera, an Aid for Africa member, reports that the lion is the latest species to be swept up in wildlife trade for Asian medicinal markets. Lion breeders in South Africa are selling lion bones to Asian markets, so wild lions now look valuable to local people. Population growth is also leading to a loss of lion prey and habitat adequate to keep the species viable.
Africa’s economic rise is good for its people. It should also be good for its wildlife. Saving Africa’s wild species not only requires scientific understanding of the problems and solutions from organizations like Panthera and the political will of African governments, but also the attention of the U.S. and other countries that can provide the resources to tackle illegal poaching. The U.S. initiative on wildlife trafficking in Africa is a good start.
Aid for Africa is an alliance of 85 U.S.-based nonprofits and their African partners who help children, families, and communities throughout Sub-Saharan Africa. Aid for Africa’s grassroots programs focus on health, education, economic development, arts & culture, conservation, and wildlife protection in Africa.