LISTEN: The World in Two Minutes – June 25, 2014

The U.N. and INTERPOL highlight the shocking scale and profitability of the illicit wildlife trade in a new report.

TRANSCRIPT: “The World in 2:00″

It’s Wednesday, June 25th, 2014, and time for the world in 2:00. I’m your host, Luke Vargas, reporting for Talk Radio News Service at the United Nations.

Today we turn to the issue of illicit wildlife trading. Think elephant poachers, illegal woodcutting, or in the Horn of Africa, coal smuggling. All of this was highlighted in a new report this week from the U.N. and INTERPOL.

Christian Nellemann heads the U.N. Environment Programme’s rapid response unit, and was the lead author of that report.

He spoke to me today from Nairobi about the shocking scale and profitability of this trade:

“When we’re talking about this scale of money, we’re talking about something that’s one to two times all of the global official development assistance to developing countries. So the scale of it is so serious that it’s totally undermining the economies in countries.  We’re talking about massive losses of revenues and natural resources.”

Click the above image to read the full UNEP Environmental Crime Crisis report.

Click the above image to read the full UNEP Environmental Crime Crisis report.


In addition to damage caused to ecosystems and livelihoods, militias and terrorists groups are now getting involved in illegal resources trading as a means of funding their activities.

“[We believe] it is the primary finance to Al-Shabab – [which was] behind the recent terrorist attacks we’ve seen in Northern Kenya. We also believe that militant groups, and potentially also Al-Qaeda groups, across the Sahara and Trans-Sahara are making between $111 and $286 million a year on this trade.”

Drones and SWAT teams are being deployed to combat poachers, but Nellemann says old-school tracking techniques still play a critical role in the fight.

“The poachers do not fear vehicles, because they can see them from very far off. In some of these landscapes it’s very flat and you can see a helicopter coming 50 kilometers off. Whereas if you know somebody is following you day and night – following and knowing what you’re eating, what you’re doing, where you came from and what you’ll be doing next – is very fearsome and has a strong deterrent effect.”

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Luke Vargas
Luke Vargas is the United Nations bureau chief for Talk Radio News Service, leading international coverage from 15 countries since 2013. Luke previously covered U.S. elections in 2008 and 2012 for radio and television. Twitter: @TheCourier

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