Ruthless and heavily armed “criminal syndicates” linked to drug smugglers and militias are running the global wildlife trade and turning their guns on the park rangers tasked with protecting endangered species.
Hundreds of rangers have been killed over recent years as poachers stop at nothing in their quest for lucrative animal parts such as ivory and rhino horn, according to experts at a global convention on protecting wildlife in Bangkok.
The illegal trade “poses an immediate risk to wildlife and to people, including those serving on the frontlines to protect wildlife” says John Scanlon, secretary general of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES).
“It increasingly involves organised crime syndicates and in some cases rebel militia.”
The death toll among the rangers has risen as the slaughter of elephants and rhinos reaches record levels—with photographs of carcasses stripped of horns or tusks stirring public outcry.