Public-Private Partnerships Essential to Combat Poaching

Public-Private Partnerships Essential to Combat Poaching

At the end of last year, visiting Kenya under the auspices of a Stimson Center development and transnational security project in East Africa, I met Baraka, a 2.5-ton black rhinoceros that, despite being completely blind, is truly lucky. Baraka, whose name means “blessings” in Swahili, lives in a 100-acre safeguarded part of Kenya’s Sweetwaters National Park on the foothills of Mount Kenya. There he mingles with visitors, whom he allows to both pet and feed him. Though rhinos are a naturally aggressive species, Baraka seems to think he has no natural enemies. Perhaps he would feel differently if he knew about the ongoing perils faced by his and other species on the savannahs in Kenya and throughout sub-Saharan Africa.

Every year hundreds of rhinos are slaughtered. Poachers cut off their horns and illegally sell them on the black market for more than $45,000 per pound, giving the much sought-after commodity a higher value than gold, diamonds and cocaine. African elephants face an even more dire predicament, with some 25,000 of them slain every year, a level not seen since before the 1989 international ivory trade ban. The rhino horns are valued for their alleged healing powers, while demand for elephant tusks is driven by deep-seated cultural traditions, primarily in Asia. Lions, cheetahs, buffaloes and zebras are also among those targeted by increasingly sophisticated poachers.

Former U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton recently noted the ferocity of the attacks. “It is one thing to be worried about the traditional poachers who come in and kill and take a few animals, a few tusks, a few horns or other animal parts,” she said. “It’s something else when you’ve got helicopters, night vision goggles, automatic weapons, which pose a threat to human life as well as wildlife.”

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