Over the last three years, poachers in Africa have killed more than 100,000 elephants for their ivory. In the last year alone, poachers killed more than 1,200 African rhinos to harvest and sell their horns.
These were just a few of the startling statistics shared Wednesday afternoon during the “GEOINT Wildlife Security and Illicit Trafficking” presentation at GEOINT 2015. Moderated by International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) Whale Program Director Patrick Ramage, the hour-long panel discussion explored the intersection of wildlife protection and global security, the overlap of which is increasingly apparent, speakers agreed, as terrorist networks use money from illegal wildlife trafficking to fund criminal operations.
“Wildlife crime and illicit trafficking is a growing threat … that needs urgent attention but cannot be solved by individual government agencies, non-governmental actors, or rangers acting alone,” said Ramage, whose fellow speakers included representatives from the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI), the U.S. State Department, the Kenya Wildlife Service, and KEYW Corp., an industry member with interests in Africa. “The time has come for a more sophisticated anti-poaching response.”
GEOINT is a critical piece of that response, according to panelists.
“GEOINT, in particular, is best postured of all of our intelligence disciplines to support wildlife security and defeat illicit traffic,” said ODNI National Intelligence Manager for Africa Terry Ford. “GEOINT is probably the most naturally transferrable intelligence discipline and thus the easiest to share with people on the ground who are working this issue.”
Concluded Ramage: “In the end, the welfare of animals and human communities are not separate concerns, but rather inextricably linked. The potential collaboration [between DoD, the IC, and NGOs] in devising a more holistic approach to address this urgent threat … is potentially very powerful and urgently needed.”