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Audio Transcript:

Werman: So who's profiting from the billions of dollars in illegal ivory trade? Supports say the Somali extremist group Al Shabab is heavily involved. Andrea Crosta is executive director of the group Elephant Action League. So you carried out a two-year investigation, what did you find in terms of direct links between elephant poaching and Al Shabab Andrea?

Andrea Crosta: Actually after dozens and dozens of meetings with traders, with traffickers, poachers and even ex-warlords we found and indisputable financial trail between the illicit trade of ivory and Al Shabab. Basically Al Shabab acts as a middle man, and a buyer, and he's also a very good buyer. He pays very good prices. He is punctual, and no joke. So he's making them a desirable buyer for illicit ivory from small medium brokers.

Werman: Is Shabab, or Shabab militants themselves actually going into Kenya? Into the wildlife zones to kill the animals? Are they the poachers?

Andrea: Very seldom. Unlike other militias in Africa involved with poaching like, for example, the [inaudible 00:01:03] from Sudan, or the Elaray of Coney. El Shabab doesn't really kill the elephant. They actually buy ivory from others. They either give ammunition and weapons to samolia arm gangs that enter Kenya, and then poach elephants. Or El Shabab is in contact with the traffickers and traders in Kenya, and the role of these traders is basically to assemble a large quantity of ivory buying from smaller poachers or from smaller traders. And when they have enough they contact El Shabab, and El Shabab arranges the picking. And then the ivory is smuggled into Somalia.

Werman: So I imagine Shabab isn't keeping the ivory for themselves, and putting it in their living-rooms. They're probably just fencing it. Who, who do they then sell it to?

Andrea: Correct. They are already in contact with other traders that are in contact with shippers at the port. One of them for example Baraway was the location where a few days ago US Navy Seals tried to capture or kill on of their chiefs, and from these ports the ivory is smuggled into larger ships on their way to Ashia. And from there it disappears, and of course we all know most of the illegal ivory is heading to China.

Werman: So Andrea, what's the bottom line here. How much does elephant ivory actually account for Shabab's operating budget? If we can call it that.

Andrea: We assess, based on the evidence we get from these people, something like 200 and $600,000 per month. It's a lot of money that these people can use to, basically for terror activities in Somalia by those outside Somalia like we saw in Nairobi.

Werman: What about your experience. You know, you were in Kenya. Do you think the Kenyan's who are trying to stop these activities are effective?

Andrea: They are trying to be effective. Of course they are dealing with heavily armed gangs. They are dealing with very organized criminal syndicates, so they are doing what they can. But of course we need more boots on the ground. We need more rangers, more training, better equipment, more collaboration between different law enforcement agencies, the army, customs, and the police. And my personal opinion is that we need more serious intelligence, and till now not enough effort was put on intelligence.

Werman: How much do you think that this poaching link to terrorism that you established with your investigation, how much do you think it kind of raises poaching to a higher priority on the national front? Do you think this could change things?

Andrea: Yes. What I call the human toll of the ivory trade is much wider and deeper than Al Shabab. It's not just about terrorist making money, it's not just about the rangers dying trying to protect elephants, rhinos and other wildlife. It's also about entire local communities getting exploited by this market. It's about widows, it's about orphans, it's about child soldiers, it's about weapons bought to poach. I think it's time for the international community to face the broad spectrum of those side effects of the ivory trade, and most important here's a question for governments, and for traders, ivory shops. Buying ivory legal or illegal, you indirectly fund a long chain of criminal activities. So if law enforcement is after those criminals, those terrorist. My question is, should we start going after also ivory buyers, ivory consumers? Because indirectly they are the origin of everything.

Werman: Andrea Crosta executive director of Elephant Action League based in the Netherlands. Thank you.

Andrea: My pleasure. Thank you.

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