Monday, March 3, 2008

Killing fields of Darfur, Chad and beyond

From people to endangered species: the travesty grows

The unending specters of misery and death so ubiquitous to the killing fields of Darfur have set their gaze to distant riches beyond the borders of Sudan. They have stirred and moved in the name of money on easy prey and this time it is the animals that suffer. According to Sharon Begley of Newsweek, the sad tale of this human travesty has now reached the world of Africa’s endangered species- and it’s killing them at near industrial scales.

As if a child’s dying cry wasn’t enough for the hungry hordes of the Janjaweed (nomadic proxies in a terrible struggle between Sudanese powers that be), they now spread their bloody reach into Chad’s Zakouma National park ; a refuge of endangered species and a tantalizing source of blood money for these killers. However, they aren’t the only "armies" in need of Chad’s treasures in a continent choked by desperation and greed. The endless quest to feed bloody struggles for power and domination can be seen in ever more brazen poacher raids like those supported by Somali warlords and demonstrate the perils of trying to defend the defenseless.

Once rebounding populations of elephants and rhinos among many other endangered species are now being decimated to fuel the ongoing human tragedy in Darfur, Somalia, and who knows where else. Begley notes that this “signals a terrifying turn in the world's efforts to save vanishing species. The battle is no longer just about the elephant's trumpet never again echoing over the African savanna, or the Bengal tiger's roar being heard only in memory. The threat posed by the contraband wildlife trade is now also about the money it generates—wave upon wave of it—that is being used by very bad people to do very bad things.”

Chadian park rangers are caught in the middle of a newer more vicious illegal animal trade whose endgame appears to be the very extinction of the animals they defend. The problem of course extends far beyond the borders of Sudan or Chad and reaches into the depths of India, Asia and North America. Part of the problem is the shear idiocy and ignorance of people who create a market demand for these animals in pieces and parts that end up as ivory statues or in "magical" aphrodisiac powders. By doing so, whether they know it or not, these buyers aid and abet in an unfolding human tragedy.

Begley concludes her article noting "that as the ultimate blame for drug lords who murder the innocent lies with users, so the blame for a wildlife trade that sustains organized crime and genocidal militias lies with the buyers. "There is a vague awareness in America that some things, they shouldn't be buying," says McMurray. "But the psychology seems to be that if it's in a store [or online] it must be OK." Americans who buy ivory carvings (easily available online), Japanese who collect the ivory signature seals called hankos and Chinese who clamor for "medicines" made from tiger bone are not supporting some lone poacher who's trying to feed his family. They're putting money into the coffers of the Janjaweed, warlords and possibly even worse actors. With the new wildlife traffickers, it's not only animals whose lives are at stake.”

Cry the children... and the animals….

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